Angel Blue’s first opera album was a gift from her father.
At 5 years old, Blue listened to Leontyne Price’s seasoned vocals on “A Program of Song” over and over, falling more in love with the music with each aria, she said.
Eighteen years later
, the UCLA alumnacido Domingo in 2007. After Blue finished her last aria, Domingo offered Blue praise she has not forgotten since: “You remind me of my friend, Leontyne Price.”
performed for world-renowned tenor Plá
Since earning her master’s degree from UCLA’s music performance program in 2008, Blue became an international opera singer with a stage career spanning over 30 countries. In June
, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut at the theater’s annual Summer Recital Series and will perform at the Hollywood Bowl on Friday and Saturday. Though Blue said her affinity for classical music is fueled by her own love for singing, her close relationships with her UCLA mentors and her father keep her focused on her operatic aspirations.
“I kind of just fell in love with singing because of my dad,” Blue said. “Had he not been a singer, I probably would have done something else, too.”
But Blue said she did not plan on taking her love of music to UCLA until she met maestro Jon Robertson
, the chairman at the department of music at UCLA
“When she opened her mouth and started to sing, I was virtually blown away,” Robertson said.
At this point, Blue was studying music for her undergraduate degree at the University of Redlands and was unsure whether or not she would continue her education after graduation.
But Robertson said he knew UCLA could cultivate Blue’s raw talent and clean up her technical flaws to prepare her for prestigious opera stages. However, Blue had other plans for her education.
“I had my heart set on Juilliard,” Blue said. “I only wanted to go to Juilliard – there was no other place for me.”
But two rejections from The Juilliard School and encouragement from Robertson prompted Blue to begin training with UCLA voice professor Juliana Gondek for a UCLA audition. For about two years, Blue attended private voice lessons at Gondek’s house, where Blue worked diligently to overcome her technical flaws, Gondek said.
“She knew deep, deep in her soul where her mission in life lay,” Gondek said. “She never wavered from her commitment and her conviction that (opera) was her destiny.”
UCLA music professor Michael Dean said he recognized Blue’s resolve to learn and improve while she studied for her masters degree.
“Everything about her was just the ideal student – exactly what we look for in a young artist,” Dean said. “Someone who is intellectually curious, talented but doesn’t just coast on her talent.”
Dean said he knew Blue had the potential to have a successful career on the operatic stage while watching her sing the part of Suor Angelica in a UCLA production of the show by the same name. Dean said Blue showcased not only incredible vocal ability but also natural dramatic sensibility.
“I can absolutely pinpoint that as a moment when I thought to myself, ‘This woman is going places,’” Dean said.
But Blue said the audience member she cared most about impressing was her father.
“I just remember him being in this purple suit, and he was so proud,” Blue said. “He knew all the words.”
She said her vocal teachers and coaches’ unwavering interest in her career fuels her passion both in times of success and disappointment.
Blue’s music education at UCLA came to a halt after her father’s death in 2006, she said. In her grief, she said she tore up much of her music and questioned her purpose as a musician.
“At that time, I think the reason I sang was because (my father) was going to be in the audience,” Blue said. “When I realized that he wasn’t going to be there, it was like, ‘Why am I doing this?’”
Blue took a two-month break from opera and from UCLA after her father’s death. She said she did not return to her musical pursuits until she was one of multiple opera singers invited to sing for nine-time grammy award-winning opera singer Domingo to audition for his Young Artist Program. Blue said her father frequently insisted she would one day meet Domingo, and that he would become enamored with her voice and personality.
“I was thankful for the opportunity to sing for (Domingo),” Blue said. “It was a sign from God for me, as ‘This is what you’re supposed to be doing.’”
Domingo offered Blue a spot in his Young Artist Program, and she finished her UCLA education as his protege, she said. Since graduating, Blue has received first place in the Zarzuela competition at the 2009 Operalia and an Opera Award nomination in 2015.
As for her upcoming Hollywood Bowl performance, Blue said she is excited to sing as part of “An Olympic Carnival: Sergio Mendez & 50 years of Brasil ’66″ for her friends and family in the state she calls home.
“I’m very proud to be Californian,” Blue said. “I really feel like if there was ever an opera singer that really came out of the California system of study, it’s me.”