Friday, October 15, 2021

Boosey and Hawkes: Julia Bullock Discusses Her Favorite Boosey & Hawkes Works

Soprano and tastemaker Julia Bullock singles out works from Boosey's catalog that carry personal significance to her as an artist. Her picks encompass song, oratorio, and opera across the past century, including works by Britten, Stravinsky, Adams, and Michel van der Aa.

Acclaimed soprano Julia Bullock has captivated audiences around the world with her powerful performances while carving out a fascinating trajectory for herself, giving defining performances of operas by John Adams and Igor Stravinsky.

Her latest role is in Michel van der Aa’s new multimedia opera Upload, with upcoming performances at the Dutch National Opera (October 1–8), as well as Cologne Opera and the Park Avenue Armory in New York in future seasons. Bullock stars in this modern drama centered on a father and daughter who struggle to connect after the ailing father decides to upload his conscious mind into a digital version of himself. (See reviews from the world premiere in Bregenz last July.)

In addition to her renown as a singer, Bullock is celebrated for her curatorial instincts. She states:
When I’m thinking about curating, I’m looking for themes I’m grappling with as an individual, and how that is being echoed across what is happening in our world right now. When I look at composers like Michel van der Aa or John Adams or Benjamin Britten, they have a wonderful self-awareness for their own selves, while also referencing everything else that is going on around them. In that way, I identify with these composers because they are challenging themselves constantly.


Michel van der Aa, Upload

First off, Michel is just a sensitive, patient person. And there is tremendous sensitivity and a level of grace that he demands from the performers in all his music. There’s something pristine that he’s always seeking—it’s in the orchestration and it’s in the vocal line.

The first piece he ever saw me perform was in The Rake’s Progress by Stravinsky. And he told me, “You found a wonderful way to balance the demands of Stravinsky’s music, his architecture, and angular writing, and find the lyricism and throughline.”

In Stravinsky’s music, much like in van der Aa’s, it’s pulling from several different musical sources. He pulls from practically every period of music in The Rake’s Progress. For Michel’s music, he balances between the classical operatic space and popular music space. That is very apparent in the writing, and from Day One of rehearsal it was absolutely necessary to keep that in mind in order to satisfy the delivery he sought after. Michel wants the most direct delivery of his material possible with utmost clarity. He also values utmost balance in a person’s singing voice. So even if there are emotional extremes throughout the opera, that still needed to be translated into my voice with balance and grace. As a singer, I learned a tremendous amount from that, and for the development of the character, it was interesting to have that state of balance be the consistent point of return.

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