September 18, 2019

21C Media Group is thrilled to announce that it now represents American vocalist Julia Bullock, “a musician who delights in making her own rules” (New Yorker). Named one of WQXR’s “19 for 19” artists to watch this year, she is known not only for her versatile artistry, probing intellect and commanding stage presence, but also as a prominent voice of social consciousness and activism. Next season, during a year-long tenure as 2019-20 Artist-in-Residence of the San Francisco Symphony, she pairs new music by American women of color with traditional slave songs in an expanded version of her concert program “History’s Persistent Voice,” curates a characteristically original selection for the experimental SoundBox performance space, and joins the orchestra under Music Director Designate Esa-Pekka Salonen for Ravel’s Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé and Britten’s Les Illuminations. This last also sees her make debuts with the RTÉ National, Milwaukee and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestras, while Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 is the vehicle both for season-launching concerts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel and an appearance in “SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras” at Washington’s Kennedy Center. To round out the season, Bullock gives the American, British, Belgian, and Russian premieres of Schumann/Bernard Foccroulle’s Zauberland and makes her debut at Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet with a reprise of Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine. A musical portrait of Josephine Baker, this was conceived by Bullock in collaboration with Peter Sellars and written for her by MacArthur “Genius” Fellows Tyshawn Sorey and Claudia Rankine. As Vanity Fair notes, the American vocalist “is using her artistic platform for social activism to glorious effect. … She’s young, highly successful, politically engaged – but not least is her ability to inject each note she sings with a sense of grace and urgency, lending her performances the feel of being both of the moment and incredibly timeless.”

2019-20 Artist-in-Residence of San Francisco Symphony

An innovative programmer whose artistic curation is in high demand, Bullock has just completed a year-long residency at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The residency inspired heartfelt praise; the New York Times admired “its consummate artistry and its social conscience,” while Musical America, pronouncing it “one of the year’s most stimulating arts projects,” observed: “The Met Museum may have hit a homerun appointing Julia Bullock as its 2018-19 Artist in Residence.”

 

One highlight of the residency was the world premiere of Bullock’s program “History’s Persistent Voice.” This was hailed as an “unstinting look at the hardships faced by so many African Americans today,” in which “the soprano’s compelling charisma, musicality, and expressivity conveyed the power of her message” (Classical Voice America). The New York Times marveled:

Ms. Bullock sang with burning focus, as she did the whole set, which brought her mellow, dusky voice from melancholy earthiness to piercing crows. She never milked the emotion or exaggerated her presence; she commands a space without ever trying too hard.”

The vocalist debuts a new iteration of the same program this season, when she takes on a similarly high-profile curatorial role as 2019-20 Artist-in-Residence of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS). Once again combining traditional slave songs with new vocal and instrumental music by American women of color, now “History’s Persistent Voice” not only features the West Coast premieres of the three works first heard at the Met Museum – Tania León’s Green Pastures, Jessie Montgomery’s Five Slave Songs and Allison Loggins-Hull’s Mama’s Little Precious Thing – but also the world premieres of four new SFS commissions, from MacArthur Fellow Rhiannon Giddens, multimedia artist Camille Norment, Grammy-winner Cécile McLorin Salvant and Guggenheim Fellow Pamela Z (June TBA).

In 2020-21, Bullock looks forward to serving as one of eight collaborative partners to Esa-Pekka Salonen in his inaugural season as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony. Meanwhile, the vocalist’s year-long SFS residency features two further concert programs early next year. Next spring she curates a program at the experimental SoundBox performance space, in which music by Nina Simone meets that of Hildegard von Bingen and Bach, while music by Josephine Baker is contrasted with that of three of her contemporaries in “Les Six”: Poulenc, Honegger and Milhaud (April 24 & 25). And this winter Bullock joins the orchestra under Salonen’s leadership for a pair of song cycles set to texts by French symbolist poets: Britten’s sensuous Rimbaud setting, Les illuminations, and Ravel’s Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé (Feb 20–22). Her “ravishingly visceral account” (New York Times) of another great French Romantic song cycle, Maurice Delage’s Poèmes Hindous, saw Bullock undertake previous collaborations with both the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle and the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.

Launching the LA Philharmonic season and other orchestral collaborations

The San Francisco residency is not the only high-profile orchestral collaboration coming up for Bullock in California. This fall, having “stopped the show in every way” (Los Angeles Times) when she sang Bernstein’s “Somewhere” with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, she returns to kick off the orchestra’s new season under the Music Director’s leadership with another mid-century American classic: Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (Oct 3–6). A nostalgic and evocative “lyric rhapsody” set to text by James Agee, this also takes Bullock to Washington’s Kennedy Center, where she reprises the work with Tennessee’s Knoxville Symphony during “SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras” (March 27). When she sang the same work with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at New York’s Alice Tully Hall, the New York Times found:

“She rendered the gorgeous yet not oversweet melodies beautifully, but there was much more than mere vocal allure: superb diction and a compelling stage manner that would have communicated much of the meaning even if the words had not registered so clearly.”

To complete her 2019-20 orchestral lineup, Bullock offers three more accounts of Britten’s Les Illuminations in debuts with the Milwaukee Symphony under Lee Mills (Nov 8–10), the Indianapolis Symphony under Marc Albrecht (Feb 7 & 8), and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra with her husband, conductor Christian Reif (May 8).

Perle Noire: paying tribute to Josephine Baker in Paris

It was Bullock who, in collaboration with visionary director Peter Sellars, first conceived Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine, a dark and intimate reconsideration of the life and legacy of the great Black American singer, activist and cultural icon Josephine Baker. Weaving together texts by poet Claudia Rankine, music recomposed by Tyshawn Sorey, and choreography by Michael Schumacher, the work first began life as Josephine Baker: A Portrait, of which Bullock gave the world and New York premieres with Roomful of Teeth and the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) at the 2016 Ojai Music and Mostly Mozart festivals. Recognized as “one of the most important works of art yet to emerge from the era of Black Lives Matter” (New York Times), Perle Noire went on to represent another highlight of the vocalist’s residency at the Metropolitan Museum, where her account of the work marked the first full-length performance on the museum’s iconic grand staircase. As San Francisco Classical Voice reports:

Perle Noire is a complex meditation on a multifaceted historical figure, but it’s more than that, too. It’s an elegy for the untold violence of white supremacy, and it’s a determined resolution to keep on living anyway. If Bullock ever presents it near you, see it if you possibly can.”

Residents of Baker’s adopted home will have the opportunity to do so next spring, when Bullock reprises the work for her debut at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris (April 11–17).

American, British, Belgian and Russian premieres of Zauberland

Finally, Bullock joins pianist Cédric Tiberghien for the American, British, Belgian and Russian premieres of Zauberland (Magic Land) on an eight-stop transatlantic tour that takes in London’s Royal Opera House, Linbury Theatre (Oct 15–18) and New York’s Lincoln Center (Oct 29 & 30), as well as Ann Arbor, MI (Oct 24 & 25), Brussels (Feb 11–15), Lille (Dec 6 & 7), Rouen (May 19 & 20), St. Petersburg (Dec 12) and Moscow (Dec 15 & 16). Conceived as a dream sequence about refugee relocation, the new work juxtaposes Schumann’s Dichterliebe with original songs written for Bullock by Bernard Foccroulle and Martin Crimp in a dramatic dialogue between “Fortress Europe” and its Eastern Mediterranean origins. As at the vocalist’s recent world premiere performances in Paris, Katie Mitchell directs.

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Julia Bullock: 2019-20 engagements

Oct 3, 4, 5 & 6
Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles Philharmonic / Gustavo Dudamel
Opening Night
Barber: Knoxville: Summer of 1915

Oct 15 – May 20
Transatlantic tour of Zauberland (Magic Land) with Cédric Tiberghien, piano
Oct 15, 16 & 18: London, England (Royal Opera House, Linbury Theatre; UK premiere)
Oct 24 & 25: Ann Arbor, MI (U.S. premiere)
Oct 29 & 30: New York (Lincoln Center, White Light Festival)
Dec 6 & 7: Lille, France
Dec 12: St. Petersburg, Russia (Russian premiere)
Dec 15 & 16: Moscow, Russia
Feb 11, 13 & 15: Brussels, Belgium (Belgian premiere)
May 19 & 20: Rouen, France

Nov 8, 9 & 10
Milwaukee, WI
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra / Lee Mills (debut)
Britten: Les Illuminations

Feb 7 & 8
Indianapolis, IN
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra / Marc Albrecht (debut)
Britten: Les Illuminations 

Feb 20–22
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Symphony (2019-20 Artist-in-Residence)
San Francisco Symphony / Esa-Pekka Salonen
Ravel: Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé
Britten: Les Illuminations

March 27
Washington, DC
Kennedy Center
“SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras”
Knoxville Symphony
Barber: Knoxville: Summer of 1915

April 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 & 17
Paris, France
Théâtre du Châtelet
Tyshawn Sorey/Claudia Rankine: Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine

April 24 & 25
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Symphony (2019-20 Artist-in-Residence)
SoundBox
Program incl. Hildegard von Bingen, Bach, Poulenc, Honegger, Milhaud, Nina Simone and Josephine Baker

May 8
Dublin, Ireland
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra / Christian Reif (debut)
Britten: Les Illuminations

June TBA
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Symphony (2019-20 Artist-in-Residence)
“History’s Persistent Voice”
Trad.: slave songs
Tania León: Green Pastures (West Coast premiere)
Jessie Montgomery: Five Slave Songs (West Coast premiere)
Allison Loggins-Hull: Mama’s Little Precious Thing (West Coast premiere)
Rhiannon Giddens: new work (world premiere of new SFS commission)
Camille Norment: new work (world premiere of new SFS commission)
Cécile McLorin Salvant: new work (world premiere of new SFS commission)
Pamela Z: new work (world premiere of new SFS commission)