Mike A. Bryan, A&E Editor
Soprano singer Julia Bullock performed at The Sheldon Concert Hall Wednesday, Oct. 24. She began her concert with a series of Austrian classical/romantic songs by Franz Schubert, none of which were recognizable to my novice opera ears. They were, however, each impressive and showcased her soprano operatic abilities.
Bullock is an effusive singer, often gesturing to emphasize her words, all the while captivating the audience with her confidence and friendly nature. She was dressed in a beautiful, green, flowy dress with a slight floral pattern and had a stage presence that took over the concert hall. Her accompanying pianist was dressed traditionally in a black suit with a white shirt and tie. His accompaniments were the perfect compliment to her soprano voice.
In between some songs she offered a bit of delightful commentary, but the beginning set of Schubert flowed smoothly from song to song. She then performed a series of songs by American composer Samuel Barber, “Hermit Songs.” Her powerful voice warmed up and cascading over the captivated audience. A brief intermission followed, with Bullock and her pianist returning for one encore. Bullock’s asides were quite enjoyable and showed her personal connection to the music and to the specific arrangements she had commissioned for her use.
The second half of the concert had a more modern approach with some recognizable songs or at least more recognizable artists. She began the second set with a series of songs in French by composer Gabriel Faure, and again, I had no idea what the subject matter might be, but was thoroughly entranced by her powerfully beautiful soprano voice. At the end of the night, she finished with a number of songs by well-known American blues artists Nina Simone and Billie Holiday, among others.
These last songs were my favorite of the concert. Her voice was fully warmed up at that point, hitting notes from the lowest, deepest place all the way to falsetto and everything in between. Bullock’s vocal range is notable and exceptional, and the standing ovation came as no surprise. She truly honored those great American female blues artists with her renditions.
Julia Bullock was born in St. Louis in 1987 and is a young, rising opera star who has been making a name for herself in concert halls and auditoriums all over the world for the past few years. She received her bachelor’s degree from the Eastman School of Music and her master’s from Bard College’s graduate vocal arts program. Bullock also went on to earn an artist diploma at Juilliard in 2015. She is the Lindemann Vocal Chair of Young Concert Artists and is supported by the Barbara Forester Austin Fund for Art Song. Suffice it to say, she has not only raw talent, but an excellent education in music as well and the support to allow her to tour.
The concert was held at The Sheldon, which is one of the best acoustically-designed concert halls in the city. In fact, the acoustics are so incredible that neither Bullock nor the pianist used a microphone. It appears that there is not a bad seat in that hall in terms of acoustics. Bullock’s performance was varied, intense, beautiful and memorable. Her stage presence is mesmerizing, and her voice fills the room in a deep, richly textured manner. If you ever get a chance to catch her in concert or in a musical production, take advantage of the opportunity. Julia Bullock will return to St. Louis next June for the role of Destiny in the world premiere of “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.