At 31, Julia Bullock is dominating the live arts space. The soprano singer, who is comfortable with both opera and concert repertoire, has performed well-known pieces like Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess with David Robertson and the Sydney Symphony and also at well-known places like Carnegie Hall.
This is an impressive feat for the bi-racial, St. Louis born singer, as most opera singers don’t even begin their career ’til 28. She will now be able to add the MET to her resume, as their new artist in residence.
Bullock will be bringing depictions of slave narratives, the works of Josephine Baker, Langston Hughes, Thornton Dial and more of the Black historical narrative to the Met Live Arts through a series of five performances throughout 2019. The artist will be collaborating with guest performers to further illustrate her message and vision of bringing to life the voice and narrative of objects and stories that have been silenced. Bullock states, “Social constructs not only impact the art that is made, but they directly influence how art is presented and for whom it is preserved.”
Bullock will bring her Baker program, which is Josephine Baker songs that were newly arranged by jazz composer and musician Tyshawn Sorey and sung by Bullock in a slow, soulful manner to the steps of the MET. The piece was originally performed at the Ojai Music Festival in 2016 and is officially called, Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine. The performance will undoubtedly be both visually and audibly stimulating with The New York Times describing the piece as “One of the most important works of art yet to emerge from the era of Black Lives Matter.” Bullock explained at the Met Live Arts Luncheon on Thursday, “We’ve put in a lot of work finding a great sound designer, lighting designer to make this very intimate piece with great depth and power channeling from the top of the staircase all the way down.”
Bullock will be performing poems by Langston Hughes, including ‘Harlem,’ ‘Genius Child,’ and ‘Song for a Dark Girl,’ set to music. She will be joined with New York Philharmonic Principal Clarinetist Anthony McGill, violinist Jessie Montgomery and the Young People’s Chorus of New York City.
In addition to performing works of great Black, artists, Bullock will focus on telling lesser known stories. She will take us through a sonic experience of Afro-Cuban slave Esteban Montejo, who escaped from a sugar plantation, survived in the jungle, and fought for Cuban independence from Spain before dying at age 113. Bullock tells Hello Beautiful, “I felt that because we were opening with slave songs or stories about finding liberation through creativity that this was a perfect piece to close out this residency with, even though I wasn’t going to be the one providing the voice for it.”
The projects are focused on the Black American experience through North America and Latin America. It’s really exciting to see the MET focused on this narrative and medium.
Bullock performed a Nina Simone song, I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, at the Met Live Arts luncheon and her voice absolutely blew me away with its soul and depth that she brought several people in the audience to tears.
Find out about all of Julia Bullock’s upcoming performances for the MET, here.
Ticket prices vary, with some shows being free with Museum Admission (but to witness the Joséphine Baker piece will cost you a minimum of $125.00).