Angel Blue is a young (b 1984) American soprano who opened this season at the Met as Bess in Gershwin’s opera. Thus far she has sung 31 performances at the New York house all in La Bohème or Porgy and Bess. Oddly for such a gifted singer who is headed for the pinnacle of opera’s soprano roles, she started as Mimì and has more recently been singing the second lead, Musetta. Quite simply, Blue has a voice that is ideal for the great Verdi and Puccini roles. If her career unfolds the way it seems to be going she’ll be mentioned with Milanov and Netrebko.
The California native has been a beauty pageant winner, a convincing singer of popular music, and of course an opera singer. Thus far she has concentrated on lyric roles, but when you hear her voice you will immediately recognize a budding spinto sound that’s headed to the big Verdi soprano roles. She also has a dazzling top register. She has been likened to Leontyne Price. I think it’s possible that she’ll surpass her great predecessor at the Met. There’s not a weak spot in her vocal production and she far ahead of where Price was at the same age.
I’ll start with Youkali (originally the “Tango habanera” an instrumental movement), from Kurt Weill’s 1934 musical Marie Galante. Summertime from Gershwin’s only opera is sung by Clara in the first act. Bess gets to sing a bit of it in Act 3. Everyone from the mailman to the butcher knows it. It just shows the composer’s unsurpassed melodic gift. Bernstein’s Tonight from West Side Story is sung with Placido Domingo.
Now to Verdi, where as I’ve indicated above, I thinks she’s headed to. Her voice seems ready to handle any of the composer’s soprano roles from Traviata to the Leonora’s of Trovatore and Forza. Most singers who can handle Traviata’s first act have difficulty with the following two. Blue has a voice and technique that seems right for the whole thing. E strano… Ah fors’e lui follie! shows her facility with both the emotional and technical demands of this show stopper – at least when sung like it’s supposed to be. Ignore the Rossini intro; the excerpt a promotion piece.
So, to Leonora – two of them. There are few soprano/baritone duets in Italian opera. The soprano typically sings duets with the tenor. The Trovatore Leonora has a great number with the baritone in the first scene of Act 4. It’s the one where she take poison rather than marry the Count De Luna as would any self respecting soprano in an Italian opera. The duet is one of Verdi’s finest inventions. Placido Domingo gives his by now familiar impersonation of a baritone; he’s really a tenor who has lost his high notes and the Verdi baritone’s high notes as well. Verdi’s baritone roles are written so high that a tenor can manage them. The sound is barely acceptable (it was probably recorded by a phone), but you can still judge the quality of the performance – Udiste … Mira d’acerbe lagrime
The Forza Leonora doesn’t have a duet with the baritone; she does have one with the bass, also a rare pairing. Pace, pace mio Dio is from the opera fabulous last scene. Blue will have to move her game up a notch to be in Milanov’s class in this music. But most of her few recordings date from several years back. She’s still improving. Milanov wasn’t in Milanov’s class when she was Blue’s age.
Finally Puccini – O mio babbino caro. Blue’s voice seems right for just about all of his heroines. Here’s Vissi d’arte from a recent performance of Tosca. The increasing richness of her voice is readily apparent. This is a young soprano to watch closely and to hope that the most fickle of fates – luck – is kind to her.