Soprano Julia Bullock joins Williamsburg Symphony in season-opener


Artistry necessitates talent, yes, but a true artist often possesses the unquenchable desire to evolve.

In the midst of significant acclaim, soprano Julia Bullock, 30, realizes there's much left to learn.

"One thing that I have come to understand is that I know personally that I am still very much in process, and I'm learning more about my voice and about music," Bullock said. "I feel like people are giving me an opportunity to develop in front of them, and it's a very special thing."

Bullock joins the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra for its season opening performances on Oct. 10 and 11 in a program that music director Janna Hymes believes captivating.

"(Audiences will) just completely be, I think, immersed in the program," Hymes said.

Bullock plans to perform four pieces, starting with Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 and ending with "Summertime" from "Porgy and Bess," a piece she'll reprise later this season as Clara in the Sydney Symphony's presentation of Gershwin's classic opera.

She'll sing two other arias, both from the perspective of a "person who, in society, was originally marginalized, and still is," Bullock said: Poulenc's "Non Monsieur mon mari" sung by a woman rejecting the roles assigned to her as a woman, and Kurt Weill's "Denn wie man sich bettet," performed by a character who is a prostitute.

This will be Bullock's first performance, and first visit, in Williamsburg. Hymes has heard Bullock sing, though not yet in a live performance, and described Bullock as a detailed, thorough musician.

"I think she does her work, but it goes beyond that," Hymes said.

For the rest of the program, Hymes chose Rossini's overture to "An Italian in Algiers," Mendelssohn's Nocturne and Scherzo from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and, in closing, Beethoven's Symphony no. 2 in D Major.

"(Julia) has a very special talent," Hymes said. "And she's young, and she's starting, and she's getting great recognition. And I think that there's a reason for that."

Widely regarded as a rising soprano, Bullock has garnered praise from critics at the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, among many others. Recent accolades include the 2016 Sphinx Medal of Excellence, the Lincoln Center's 2015 Martin E. Segal Award and first prize at the 2014 Naumburg International Vocal Competition.

But Bullock separates the exposure and the praise from what she does, who she is.

"I really just think of myself as a singer who is gigging and has gotten to select some wonderful projects to participate in and wonderful people to work with," she said.

Bullock studied and trained at Eastman School of Music, Bard College and The Juilliard School. And though still developing, she's beginning to understand her aesthetic.

And it doesn't involve theatrics.

"That often encourages some sort of false representation of the words and of the character, instead of actually just accepting that you're a human being, and all that you can really do on stage is be a human being," she said.

In everything, Bullock hopes for transparency and clarity.

"So that people aren't preoccupied with actually viewing me, but they can actually hear the music really clearly," she said.

In doing so, the music transcends, and whatever it is audiences seek from music, from performance, they'll find.

"I just hope that I can fully satisfy those desires of people in the audience," she said. "But that I can also give them something new."

Ultimately, Bullock desires to be "fully engaged" in each moment, each song, each performance.

"I hope that my audience feels engaged in something that's beyond themselves," she said.

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

Want to go?

When: 8 p.m., Oct. 10 and 11

Where: Kimball Theatre, 428 W. Duke of Gloucester St.

Tickets and season subscriptions available at 757-229-9857. For more information, visit

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