October's themed month explores the world of international competitions through the eyes of some finalists of top competitions around the world. We continue our Operalia series with Angel Blue, winner of the 2nd Prize and the Zarzuela Prize in 2009.

Angel Blue © Sonya Garza
Angel Blue
© Sonya Garza

Why did you decide to apply to compete in Operalia? How much international experience had you had by this time?

To be honest, I never thought that I should have competed in Operalia because I thought that I was not good enough. All of the singers who competed seemed to be on a higher level than I was at the time. I had been in several coachings and voice lessons with Maestro Domingo for almost a year before I decided to compete in Operalia. He actually said to me, “Have you ever thought of doing Operalia?” I said yes, and he said, “I think you should compete.” He also asked me if I had been to Europe before and I said no. He convinced me that the best way to visit Europe for the first time would be to enter Operalia and be introduced to Europe through the arts. I’m glad I went because it opened a new door for me, and that door has remained open to me to this day. :)

Whilst some singers thrive on competitions, others find them terrifying. What was your experience of competing in Operalia? Was it similar to your experience of competing in other competitions?

My experience at Operalia was wonderful. I enjoyed getting to know singers from all around the world. I used to compete in beauty competitions/beauty pageants and those can be incredibly fierce and in some cases very daunting. However, Operalia was no different than a Miss California pageant with 55 other contestants who all desperately wanted the title and the chance to represent their state at the national level. The only difference to me with Operalia was I didn’t have to wear a swimsuit and high heels! To me competitions are all the same. Everyone wants to win, but truly if you make it to the actual competition then you’ve already won. It may not be under the title of “1st place” or “2nd place”, but the experience to shine among the brightest of stars is certainly winning to me!

Which piece did you choose to perform in the final? Why did you choose this repertoire?

I chose to sing “Il est doux, il est bon” from Hérodiade. I chose this piece because it reminded me of my Dad who had just passed away three years before I went to Operalia. I also chose to sing “Las Carceleras” from Las Hijas del Zebedeo, a Zarzuela (Spanish operetta piece). I chose this piece because it so fun to sing. One of the best pieces I’ve ever sung.

The jury for Operalia famously includes casting agents from top opera houses. Did you receive any casting opportunities as a direct result of competing in Operalia?

Yes, I was invited to be a part of the Centre Perfecionnamente de las Artistas at the Palau de les Arts in Valencia, Spain. I studied there for one year after competing in Operalia, and performed Micaëla in Carmen under the baton of Zubin Mehta.

What memories do you have working with Domingo?

My fondest memory of working with Maestro Domingo happened when we were singing in Beijing, China on a concert. Before we walked out on stage he looked at me and said, “Are you ready?” I said, “Yes, but I’m a little bit nervous.” Maestro Domingo said, “Don’t be nervous, you have a world class voice and wonderful stage presence. And you are singing with me, so there is no need to be nervous.” :-)

What was the biggest way in which Operalia helped you to develop as a singer?

Operalia helped me to realize the potential I had in the field of classical music.

If you were competing in Operalia today, what would you choose to sing?

“Ernani, Ernani Involami”!!!!!