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Grammy Winner Makes Arizona Debut with Tucson Recital

Grammy Winner Makes Arizona Debut with Tucson Recital
Arizona Daily Star Tucson's main source for local news

Cathalena E. Burch

Medium: Print

Grammy winner and Metropolitan Opera regular Angel Blue will perform a recital with Arizona Opera on April 1 as part of the second leg of the 2023 Tucson Desert Song Festival. Dario Acosta, Courtesy of Tucson Desert Song Festival.


“He felt that the Lord had put that into his heart when I was born because of the way I was breathing when I came out of my mom’s womb,” Blue said. “I believe that it was a prophesy over my life and I have actually lived my life believing what my dad said.”

Thirty-seven years later, that prophesy has come true with remarkable accuracy: Not only has Blue performed critically-acclaimed soprano leading roles with some of the biggest opera companies in the world, including New York Metropolitan Opera, but she has also performed with some of the biggest orchestras and most renowned conductors in America and beyond.

On Saturday, April 1, she will make her Arizona debut in a recital at the UA’s Holsclaw Hall with her friend and accompanist, Met assistant conductor Bryan Wagorn.

Just what the pair will perform was still a work in progress when we spoke early this month.

“I am so in love with the United States. I love singing at home in America and whenever I am doing a recital here, my mind kind of goes all over the place because there are so many things that I would like to explore with the American audience that I often don’t get to explore overseas,” she explained, ticking off a short list of American composers including Lee Hoiby, Bruce Adolphe and Jake Heggie.

“We’ll be singing about four or five German pieces by Strauss and I’m still undecided about how I want to start the recital. But Bryan and I have been starting the recitals with a little French section because he’s from Canada and he speaks great French,” she said. “So, we have a good mix of German lieder, French chanson and then Americana.”

Blue’s recital is the anchor to the second half of the 2023 Tucson Desert Song Festival, happening now through April 6, which carried over from February to accommodate Blue’s busy schedule. When festival organizers found out Blue wasn’t available in January or February, when the festival is normally held, they extended it to the spring, adding concerts with the Tucson Guitar Society, Tucson Symphony Orchestra and True Concord Voices & Orchestra.

Blue said she’s excited to be part of the festival after learning about it from friends Ailyn Pérez and Corinne Winters.

“These two ladies I’ve been following for years so I was kinda like, ‘Ok, wait a minute: If they sing there, I want to sing there, too,’” Blue said with a chuckle. “I was actually really happy when my manager reached out and told me that the Desert Song Festival asked for me to come there and do a recital. I was very honored.”

Her appearance here comes weeks after she sang the lead role of Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata at the Met. She has sung the role seven times in her professional career that started in 2007 when she joined the Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program.

Blue was a featured soloist at the Met and a number of prestigious companies, including Royal Opera House in London and Italy’s Teatro alta Scala, in between landing roles in several operas from Puccini’s La Bohéme to John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby.

In 2019, she sang the lead role of Bess in the Met’s production of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. The recording of the performance earned Blue a Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording in 2021. She landed a second Grammy this year for her role in Terrence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up In My Bones, also with the Met.

Last summer, Blue was set to make her Verona debut in the role of Violetta at the famed Arena di Verona in Italy. But the singer pulled out of the opera because Verona’s Arena was mounting a production of Verdi’s Aida with performers using blackface to darken their skin.

Blue said her decision, which sparked a worldwide conversation about race and the culture arts, was steeped in her religious upbringing and faith.

“I have a very strong faith and belief in God and ... those morals are still very strong in my heart. They will always be there,” she explained. “I’ve just always been raised with my faith and knowing that the basis of my faith is to love God and push him first in my life and to also treat others how I want to be treated. ... That’s really why I made that decision last year. And I prayed about it before I made the decision not to go to Italy. And I still pray about it. Because my intention wasn’t to hurt anyone. I wasn’t trying to protest. It was important as an artist and as human beings that we treat each other with kindness and that we care about how other people are feeling, whether we understand what they are going through or not.”

“I wasn’t trying to start a protest. I wasn’t trying to get the ball rolling with this topic. It was what I felt in my heart,” she added. “But I do hope that people in the opera world will take these kinds of things seriously because they do affect people. Whether people understand it or not, it does affect people.”

Tucson is a mini-break for Blue before she returns to the Royal Opera House in London next month to sing Aida. In the fall, she will be with Los Angeles Opera singing the title role of Puccini’s Tosca

Saturday's performance begins at 7 p.m. at Holsclaw, 1017 N. Olive Road in the University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music. Tickets are $35 through