Angel Blue, Wigmore Hall

soprano Angel Blue made her much
anticipated recital debut at the Wigmore Hall for Rosenblatt Recitals on
Monday 21 October 2013. Accompanied by pianist Catherine Miller, Angel Blue
sang a programme which opened with the Alleluia from Mozart’s
Exsultate Jubilate, continued with songs by Richard Strauss and Sergei
Rachmaninov, then moved into the opera arias by Gershwin, Chapi, Puccini,
Wagner, Cilea, and Verdi.

Judging by her repertoire and recent roles (Musetta, Lulu,
Lucia di Lammermoor, La Traviata ) I had assumed that Angel
Blue would have a voice which was in the lyric/soubrette/coloratura range but
not a bit. She has a bright, vibrant voice which is admirably even throughout
the range including a fine upper extension and she combines easy facility and
flexibility with remarkable power. This was a voice which, when she opened up,
filled the Wigmore Hall. Her inclusion of Dich teure Halle from
Wagner’s Tannh‰user made complete sense in the context of her vocal
capacity. And I certainly agree with those who have compared her to a young
Leontyne Price.

I have to confess that I found it felt a bit odd, starting the programme
with the final movement of Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate, that said
Angel Blue sang it with a nice freedom and evenness in the passagework and some
beautifully integrated acuti. It made me regret that she didn’t give us the
whole motet.

Next came a group of Richard Strauss songs. In Heimliche
she sounded radiant, displaying a warm personality in the way
she brought out the narrative character of the piece and rising to a vibrantly
rapturous climax. Die Nacht received a nicely intent performance with
beautifully floated top notes, all sung with poise. There was a naturalness to
her delivery of Allerseelen which brought out the conversational
nature of the song. Wie sollten wir geheim sie halten came over with
great charm and delightful characterisation. The final song in the group,
Befreit, she dedicated to the memory of her father. The gave the song
an intense and serious performance with a nice melodic sweep.

In all the songs, Angel Blue’s performance was highly characterised and she
has great charm on stage, though sometimes when she allowed her voice to open
up the songs veered as little towards the operatic. All were sung with a lovely
surface beauty and gleaming tone, but I did find that said that her German
sounded rather occluded.

Her final group of songs in the first half were all by Sergei Rachmaninov.
Here the composer’s rather more heart on sleeve style seemed to suit Angel
Blue’s generous performing style and she seemed really at home in these songs
in a way that she hadn’t in the Strauss. In Ne poy, krasavitsa, pri mne
(Oh, do not sing, by beauty, to me) we had the haunting
melancholy of the song offset by the beauty and rich vibrancy of her voice,
with lovely hints of the exotic both in the melody and in Catherine Miller’s

Rachmaninov’s Vocalise showed the full beauty of Angel Blue’s
voice, combining a nice evenness of line with a fine upper register.
Zdes’khorosho (How peaceful it is here) was a charming
piece, with Angel Blue giving the song a strong narrative feel combined with
some lovely high notes. Finally Vesenniye vodi (Spring
), again with a strong narrative sense, lovely vibrant, gleaming
tones and rapture at the climaxes.

After the interval Angel Blue reappeared with a new dress, a new hairstyle
and something of a new attitude; here her delivery relaxed as she clearly
enjoyed the opportunities that these operatic arias gave her. Each aria was a
little dramatic scena and Angel Blue’s delight and charm radiated the

Summertime from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess was poised and
perfect, the way she slid into the first note of the piece was a complete
delight. This was a very affecting and captivating performance, full of
personality. This sense of personality continued with Las Carceleras (The
Prisoners’ Song
) from Ruperto Chapi’s zarzuela Las hijas del
(The Daughters of Zebedee). This was something of a tour
de force, charming and sexy and brilliantly put over.

We changed pace somewhat with the next two items, both of which allowed us
to hear the dramatic potential in Angel Blue’s voice. In Vissi d’arte
from Puccini’s Tosca she combined a strong feeling for the words with
a lovely vibrant and full vocal line. The was a very involving performance, but
beautifully controlled without any the bulges in the line. The climax was
thrilling, with a finely controlled diminuendo and whilst you the role does not
seem to feature on her cv, it does not sound too much of a stretch for her
voice. She followed this with a thrilling and gleaming account of Dich
teure Halle
from Wagner’s Tannh‰user. It is hopefully a few
years yet before she sings this role on stage, but oh boy are we in for a
treat. The combination of her vibrant toned voice, vivid characterisation and
sense that she was enjoying herself made for a fine account of the aria, though
here again her German was not ideal.

Io son l’umile ancella from act one of Cilea’s Adriana
was just perfect, with a full vibrant line and singing which
certainly brought a tingle to the spine. Angel Blue managed to both thrill and
to make the aria touching, fining her voice down beautifully at the end. She
closed with Violetta’s Ah, fors’Ë lui… Sempre libera from act one
of Verdi’s La Traviata. This was a very affecting performance,
combining neat passagework with striking portamenti and some powerful climaxes.

Throughout the recital Angel Blue was supported by Catherine Miller’s fine
pianism. Their performance rightly drew a strong reaction from the capacity
audience and we were treated to two encores, a gospel number King
and I could have danced all night from The King and

Robert Hugill


Mozart: Alleluia — Exsultate Jubilate
Richard Strauss: Heimliche Aufforderung
Richard Strauss: Die Nacht
Richard Strauss: Allerseelen
Richard Strauss: Wie sollten wir geheim sie halten
Richard Strauss: Befreit
Sergei Rachmaninov: Ne poy, krasavitsa, pri mne
Sergei Rachmaninov: Vocalise
Sergei Rachmaninov: Zdes’khorosho
Sergei Rachmaninov: Vesenniye vodi
George Gershwin: Summertime — Porgy and Bess
Ruperto Chapi: Las Carceleras — Las hijas del Zebedeo
Giacomo Puccini: Vissi d’arte — Tosca
Richard Wagner: Dich teure Halle —Tannh‰user
Cilea: Io son l’umile ancella — Adriana Lecouvreur
Giuseppe Verdi: … strano!… Ah, fors’Ë lui… Sempre libera — La

Angel Blue (soprano); Catherine Miller (piano). Rosenblatt Recitals
at the Wigmore Hall, London, 21 October 2013

image_description=Angel Blue [Photo courtesy of artist}
product_title=Angel Blue, Wigmore Hall
product_by=A review by Robert Hugill
product_id=Above: Angel Blue [Photo courtesy of artist}