Opera Sensation Angel Blue Hosts Virtual Master Class
On Tuesday, November 3, Lloyd Ultan Recital Hall again filled with music as three opera students participated in a virtual master class with Angel Blue, a soprano who performs with the Metropolitan Opera and other international opera houses. Though the seats in Lloyd Ultan Recital Hall were empty, a large virtual audience watched from around the world as Ms. Blue coached the students and shared her experiences as a young rising star in the opera field.
Angel Blue has emerged in recent seasons as one of the most important sopranos before the public today. Puccini’s La Boheme has played an especially prominent role in the development of Ms. Blue’s career. She made her United States operatic debut as Musetta at the Los Angeles Opera in 2007 while a member of the company’s Young Artist Program. Ms. Blue first sang the role at the English National Opera in London in 2014 and has since sung Mimi for several theatre debuts around the world. In 2019 she opened the Metropolitan Opera’s 2019/2020 season as Bess in a new production of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Next fall, Ms. Blue will star in a new opera, Fire Shut Up in My Bones with the Metropolitan Opera.
It was Ms. Blue’s performance in Porgy and Bess which caught the attention of University Opera Theatre Director David Walsh. “I was stunned by hearing Angel Blue and by her absolutely compelling stage presence,” Walsh remembers, and when the Metropolitan Opera was forced to cancel its season due to the pandemic, he reached out to see if she would be willing to conduct a master class - she generously agreed. Three School of Music voice students, Callie Cooper, Seokho Park, and Shang Zhang, were selected to perform for Ms. Blue. Park said that the master class “was the most exciting and happiest moment of this year.” Cooper was thrilled to have been selected to perform for Ms. Blue. “When I heard that Angel Blue was hosting a masterclass here and that I had been selected—I was elated and so honored.”
The students agreed they gained valuable techniques that they are already applying to their practice. Cooper remarked “she really impressed on me how vital it is to study the score and know what the composer wrote,” realizing that “It cannot be a guessing game.” Park described himself as “obsessed with techniques during practice” but Ms. Blue “invited me into a new milieu” beyond a single aria. “It has diversified my existing practice methods, which have further expanded the formal approach in vocal music.”
After the coaching session, Ms. Blue answered questions for the Zoom audience. When asked “Why opera?” Ms. Blue responded “I like the way music makes me feel. It’s so much fun to me. I feel that when I saw my very first opera I saw when I was four years old, I remember being totally enthralled by the sounds I just heard.” Another question on the audience’s minds was what Ms. Blue feels is the most important to spend practice time on. She shared her belief that text and language are very important, “When working with a role I spend most of my time working with the text. What drives the music is the text.”
Viewers learned about the nonprofit organization Ms. Blue founded with her mother, Sylvia’s Kids. It offers a financial award to a graduating senior going to any type of college. She told the story of the first student the foundation helped, a student who went from a 1.75 GPA to a 3.75 GPA and is now in Dental Hygiene School. Since then, five more seniors have received the award.
The opportunity to learn from a prominent young artist was appreciated by both the students and attendees. Cooper loved that Angel was so open about her journey, and how hard you have to work in the profession. “She stressed that the process is never over, there is always more to learn and polish—which I think is so important for young students to hear!” Park noted “The criteria for success as a singer are not expressed through the musical values of a singer itself. The master class gave a precious time for me to feel her musical values hidden by Angel Blue's successful careers.”
We look forward to welcoming more prominent performers in the next few months to inspire our students, including notable Russian pianist Miroslav Kultyshev, who is presenting a three-hour master class on November 24 at 10 am. Find more information on our upcoming events on our website.