Julia Bullock sang at LAMF in 2011 and in the inaugural opera, Magic Flute, in 2012. She attended the Eastman School of Music with John Taylor Ward and Scott Lykins and is proud to say she knew them when they were founding LAMF.
What first brought you to LAMF in 2011?
Supporting John Taylor Ward and Scott Lykins was my main reason for initially coming to LAMF. I’ve known those two since Eastman School of Music, when we were suffering through school days. I was so proud to know the two of them at the beginning of when they founded the small festival, which was a place for our closest friends to make music over the summer. But within three years they had a clear vision and intention for the festival that would reach deep into the community of Brainerd. It has become a destination for some of the best chamber and orchestral musicians across the United States.
You sang the role of Pamina in LAMF’s performance of Magic Flute in 2012. What do you remember about performing as part the inaugural opera production?
On one day after rehearsal, we went to a woman’s house to look at her immense costume collection. After trying on outfits that had nothing to do with The Magic Flute and having a kooky, impromptu photo shoot, we finally selected our costumes. Even though we were each hired to perform our individual parts, we also contributed to several aspects in order to shape the show. It was simply a blast.
What are you most excited for when you think about returning to LAMF?
The lakes are pretty stunning, as are the core group of audience members that attend the concerts. It feels like an extended family. Also, I am often beside myself when I get to make music with my friends at LAMF. Even though it’s a collection of over 150 musicians, I’ve either attended school or worked with several of them across the country. There’s an intimacy that develops when you make music, the bonds are deep, and they continue to grow each time we see each other again.
Were you always a singer, belting out tunes around the house growing up?
Most kids sing when they are young, and I was no different. There are videos of me singing songs with almost perfect pronunciation and intonation at age two, even though I wasn’t nearly as articulate when speaking. Music, singing in particular, accelerates one’s communicative abilities, so, yes, I think I was always a singer (or at least a performer). From musical theater tunes to more popular music, folk and blues, I loved singing it all. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I began to sing classical vocal music. It simply wasn’t played around my house. But once I was exposed to the intensity and power of that material, I wanted to understand as much about my voice as I could, and explore its varied and extreme capabilities.
What do you love most about singing professionally?
I enjoy traveling very much, because it increases my perspective, however, the stress of performing regularly is something that I wasn’t expecting to impact me so much. But I’ve been amazed by the people I’ve met and the support they provide. Music allows us to exchange and communicate with one another, and I don’t want fear to get in the way of connecting with people. And time and time again, people I’ve met in this field — musicians specifically — have displayed their capacity to hold and carry others. All of that support, and that genuine sense of trust, provides me with an incredible energy while standing in front of members in an orchestra.
Since we’ve seen you last in Brainerd your career has really taken off. What are some of the highlights of the past few years?
Honestly, I’m just gigging. I don’t really think about my career development, because I find each performance to be important. I hope my career will progress as I continue to improve and evolve. I know that my craft improves as the months go by, and that in itself is a personal highlight.
I’ve played some strong and deeply compassionate characters on the operatic stage, like Ann Trulove in, “The Rake’s Progress,” and Dame Shirley in the new John Adams opera that was written with me in mind, “Girls of the Golden West.” I made my first studio recording of “Dr. Atomic,” with the BBC Symphony, singing Kitty Oppenheimer, the wife of Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, who lead the Manhattan Project and the building of the atomic bomb. These two roles based on historic women ask me to be at my most conscious and open. They also reinforce the idea that as devastating as human beings can be to one another, we must still continue to seek out and generate love.
You’ll be singing two pieces on the final concert of our 2018 season: Mahler’s 4th symphony and Barber’s Knoxville, Summer of 1915. What do you like about these two pieces?
“Knoxville” is one of America’s quintessential works with words by American author James Agee, music by American composer Samuel Barber, and the impetus for its creation by American soprano Eleanor Steber; all three being amongst some of America’s most commemorated artists. But at its heart, this piece is not simply about celebrating “being American.” At its heart, “Knoxville,” recalls a time when you are young and feel that the world is ideal, but after the first major loss of a loved one, you not only begin to appreciate those around you, but you begin the process of identifying who you are and what you value.
This theme of maturation being seen through the eyes if a child also races through Mahler’s Fourth Symphony. It closes with the voice of an angel, or how a child might imagine an angel to be; and paired with each angelic delight, there’s an acknowledgement of violence and sacrifice.
Also, just musically in both of these works, each section of the orchestra is featured in the most magnificent way. I’m really looking forward to hearing my colleagues shine.
Congratulations on your recent engagement to Christian Reif! We are excited that he will be returning to conducting again this year as well. What is it like working with a conductor who you a personal relationship with?
Thank you! Christian likes to tell me what to do, and I promptly tell him to get his hands out of my face. (I’m joking!)
We have a solid working relationship on and off stage. It’s based on trust, respect, honest feedback and wanting to better understand each other. We just want to see the other live into his/her most fully realized potential as a musician and person. The goal is to make the music soar from our minds and bodies directly out to each individual in the audience. In order to do that successfully, it’s a joint effort, as you must understand what you’re trying to communicate and know how to execute it.