Julia Bullock is coming home.
Bullock — whose voice New York Times chief critic Anthony Tommasini has praised with words like “plush, full and nuanced ... ravishing, impassioned” — will give a recital at the Sheldon Concert Hall on Wednesday night.
It’s part of a tour that will take her from San Diego to Washington, D.C. On the program (which she calls “a nice mix” of music) are songs by American composers, including Henry Cowell, Samuel Barber and William Grant Still, along with some Ravel and works by Kurt Weill.
The daughter of Allyce Pletcher Bullock and the late Johnny Bullock Jr., she grew up in Webster Groves and sang in a children’s choir at Emmanuel Episcopal Church. Her stepfather, John Richards, helped to introduce her to classical music and opera.
A onetime Muny Kid, a 2005 graduate of John Burroughs and an alumna of Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ Artists-in-Training program, the New York-based soprano, 29, has won a host of prestigious awards and garnered rave reviews for her singing in both opera and concert, both in the United States and abroad, from Europe to South America to China.
Bullock has intelligence and a social conscience to go with her vocal gifts; her last St. Louis recital, in 2010, was a joint fundraiser for the Shropshire Music Foundation, which brings music education and performance programs to war-impacted children, and the St. Louis Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma.
The last time she sang here, in 2014, was in the “#WithNormandy” concert at Normandy High School, where she performed alongside soprano Christine Brewer and mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves and provided some of the afternoon’s most exciting moments. This time, Bullock, and the music, will hold the spotlight. “To be coming back to St. Louis and doing this is exciting,” she says.
Bullock was just back from Washington when she found time to sit down for a telephone interview. In D.C., the Sphinx Organization, dedicated to encouraging diversity in the arts and encouraging young musicians of color, awarded her the Sphinx Medal of Excellence and a career grant of $50,000.
“I accepted the award at the Kennedy Center, and then we had a performance at the Supreme Court with Justice Sotomayor, which was just amazing,” she says.
The Sphinx Award was particularly meaningful for Bullock. “I knew when I started studying classical music that 99 percent of the time I’d be doing repertoire by white people, predominantly by white men, and be working mostly with white people. It wasn’t unfamiliar or uncomfortable for me in any way, because I’m of mixed heritage. I did feel there might be a denial of a part of myself.”
When she was younger, she says, “I went through a time of being ashamed of sharing all of myself. I wanted to shield pieces and parts, depending on the people I was around. As time went on, I began to reject the self-imposed restrictions and limitations that I was putting on myself about what it was to be a classical singer, how I needed to look, how I needed to behave, repertoire that I needed to sing. Now I’m unafraid to put all of me into my programs, regardless of where I’m going and the communities I’m singing in.”
The Sphinx Award confirmed to Bullock that she’d made the right choices. “To have an organization (Sphinx) that promotes the work of Latin American and black American performers call me and want to acknowledge the work I was doing was a real affirmation of the shift” she’d made.
She’s also preparing to perform at the Ojai Festival this June. She’ll sing the American premiere of the chamber version of Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s “La Passion de Simone,” an opera-oratorio on the life of activist Simone Weil. She’s working with collaborators to develop a new piece about Josephine Baker, to be given there and at Berkeley.
Julia Bullock in recital
When • 8 p.m. Wednesday
Where • Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington Boulevard
How much • $20-$25 (students $10)
More info • 314-533-9900; sheldonconcerthall.org
Comment by email:
Comment by email:
Your articles are always timely and important,
However, It is still important when we refer to American
People of color, that they are addressed in
Capital letters. Thus always please type
'Black' Americans with a 'capital B' when
making such a reference in the article on
The mention of Latino Americans
was not typed as 'latino' with a lower-cased
'l'. In fact, the computer will automatically
correct to capital L.
The same should bedone for Black American
if it was done on a consistent basis in all publications,
especially in historical newspapers and other
print media such as the historic ST. LOUIS
POST-DISPATCH that should be familiar with
the decades-long NAACP fight to capitalize the
N in the designation Negro. The proper
category is African American, so there is no
question about capitalization.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.