We are delighted to welcome back soprano Julia Bullock for her first performance at Caramoor since her time as a Schwab Vocal Rising Star in 2013. With her expressive and captivating voice and a command of repertoire from art songs and opera to jazz, Bullock has been praised by The New York Times as a “fast-rising soprano … poised for a significant career.”
“This is the kind of great Schubert singing that were I not to hear another song sung this year, it wouldn’t be a wasted year.” — Los Angeles Times, Mark Swed
Julia Bullock, soprano
John Arida, piano
Schubert Suleika I, D. 720 (Op. 14/1) Lachen und Weinen, D. 777 Wandrers Nachtlied II, D. 768 Seligkeit, D. 433 BarberHermit Songs, Op. 29 Fauré Selections from La chanson d’Ève, Op. 95 WilliamsDriftin’ Tide (arr. J. Siskind) PinkardYou Can’t Tell the Difference After Dark (arr. J. Siskind) Hunter, AustinDownhearted Blues (arr. J. Siskind) SiskindFrog Tongue Stomp: A Lovie Austin Tribute Holiday, White, AlbaOur Love is Different (arr. J. Siskind) Simone, IrvineRevolution SimoneFour Women (arr. J. Siskind)
Julia Bullock is recognized as an “impressive, fast-rising soprano … poised for a significant career” (The New York Times). Equally at home with opera and concert repertoire, she has captivated and inspired audiences through her versatile artistry, probing intellect, and commanding stage presence. Opera News extols, “Bullock’s radiant soprano shines brightly and unfailingly … Most compellingly, however, she communicates intense, authentic feeling, as if she were singing right from her soul.”
As a voice of social consciousness and activism that she considers fundamental to her work on the stage, Julia Bullock is Artist in Residence of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and curates throughout the 2018–19 season thought-provoking performances and commissions. Whether examining current art exhibitions, or those from the Met’s singular history, Julia Bullock utilizes some of the museum’s most iconic spaces — from the steps of the Great Hall to The Cloisters — in order to illuminate narratives of our past, and provide a voice for stories that have been made silent.
A new dramatic dialogue between past and present finds its place at Paris’ Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in the world premiere of Zauberland: An Encounter with Schumann’s Dichterliebe. A quintessential work of European Romanticism, Dichterliebe is infused with yearning for love and for landscapes that no longer exist; composer Bernard Foccroulle and writer Martin Crimp create sixteen new songs to be performed seamlessly alongside Schumann and Heine’s original work. Violence blazes across the Near East, and a young woman waits at a European border hoping to enter Zauberland — a “magic world” of security and peace. But when she falls asleep, her dreams are haunted by strange images of the burnt-out city she has been forced to abandon. This new work that considers “Fortress Europe” and its eastern Mediterranean origin is performed by Julia Bullock and the brilliant French pianist Cédric Tiberghein, and is staged by one of Britain’s greatest living directors, Katie Mitchell.
Alumna of Caramoor’s Schwab Vocal Rising Stars mentoring program, Julia Bullock is currently Artist in Residence of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and curates throughout the 2018–19 season thought-provoking performances and commissions.
No less compelling and timely is to be the world premiere of Fire Shut Up in My Bones at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in which Julia Bullock sings the roles of Destiny, Lonliness, and Greta. Composer Terence Blanchard teams up with screenwriter Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou) for a haunting and tender coming-of-age story inspired by Charles M. Blow’s powerfully redemptive memoir, celebrated as “stunning” (Essence), “riveting” (Chicago Tribune), and “exquisite” (The New York Times).
Rounding out the season is a return to John Adams and Peter Sellars’ Girls of the Golden West in its European premiere at Dutch National Opera with Grant Gershon conducting the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, a debut with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in performances of Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, and a recital tour across North America with pianist John Arida.
Highlights from Julia Bullock’s international operatic career include a San Francisco Opera debut in the world premiere of Girls of the Golden West, the role of Anne Truelove in a new production by Simon McBurney of The Rake’s Progress, which served for her debuts at Festival d’Aix en Provence and Dutch National Opera, Kitty Oppenheimer in John Adams’ Doctor Atomic for a debut at Santa Fe Opera, and the title role of Purcell’s The Indian Queen at the Perm Opera House, The Bolshoi, and Teatro Real with Teodor Currentzis, and at English National Opera led by Laurence Cummings: the Peter Sellars production was captured and released commercially on DVD for Sony Classical. She has performed in South America as Pamina in Peter Brook’s award-winning A Magic Flute and her broad operatic repertoire also includes Le nozze di Figaro, The Medium, Cendrillon, The Cunning Little Vixen, and L’enfant et les Sortilèges.
On the concert stage, Julia Bullock opened the 2017–18 Boston Symphony Orchestra season under the baton of Music Director Andris Nelsons in songs of Bernstein, and she was invited by Sir Simon Rattle for debuts with the Berliner Philharmoniker in Saariaho’s La passion de Simone and with the London Symphony Orchestra in Delage’s Quatre poèmes hindous. She has sung the role of Pamina in Die Zauberflöte with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel and the music of Bernstein served Julia Bullock with debuts both at the New York Philharmonic with Alan Gilbert and at the San Francisco Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas on the podium.
Shaped by artistic partner, Peter Sellars, truly inspired performances were achieved in the summer of 2016 at the Ojai Music Festival in collaboration with Roomful of Teeth and the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) in Kaija Saariaho’s La passion de Simone, in a new staging by Peter Sellars, and in the world premiere of Josephine Baker: A Portrait, which since has been developed and renamed, Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine. Composed and arranged by Tyshawn Sorey with accompanying poetry by Claudia Rankine, this theater piece was called by The New York Times, “a ritual of mourning, not a gay-Paree nostalgia trip, and … one of the most important works of art yet to emerge from the era of Black Lives Matter.”
Julia Bullock is a founding core member of the American Modern Opera Company (AMOC) and earned her Bachelor’s degree from the Eastman School of Music, and her Master’s degree at Bard College’s Graduate Vocal Arts Program. She received her Artist Diploma from the Juilliard School. Accolades include the 2016 Sphinx Medal of Excellence, a 2015 Leonore Annenberg Arts Fellowship, the 2015 Richard F. Gold Grant from the Shoshana Foundation, Lincoln Center’s 2015 Martin E. Segal Award, First Prize at the 2014 Naumburg International Vocal Competition, and First Prize at the 2012 Young Concert Artists International Auditions.
Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Ms. Bullock integrates her musical life with community activism. She is proud to serve on the Advisory Board of Turn The Spotlight, a foundation created to identify, nurture, and empower leaders — and in turn, to illuminate the path to a more equitable future in the arts through mentorship by and for exceptional women, people of color, and other equity-seeking groups in the arts. Julia Bullock has organized and participated in benefit concerts in support of the FSH Society, which funds research for Muscular Dystrophy, the Medicine Initiative for New York’s Weill Medical Center, and the Shropshire Music Foundation, a non-profit that serves war-affected children and adolescents through music education and performance programs in Kosovo, Northern Ireland, and Uganda.
John Arida, soprano
John Arida is a pianist and coach based in New York City and specializing in both opera and art song. During the 2016–17 season he appeared in recital with soprano Julia Bullock at the Rochester Lyric Opera and mezzo-soprano Megan Marino at Opera Delaware’s Sunday Artist Spotlight series. Arida also serves on the music staff at the Juilliard School, Virginia Opera, and Central City Opera, as well as the Prototype Festival, where he will prepare the New York premiere of “anatomy theater” by Pulitzer Prize winner David Lang. Past notable performances include Carnegie Hall and Mexico recital debuts with mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard; John’s Canadian debut with soprano Simone Osborne; and the live-streamed memorial tribute to Maestro Lorin Maazel, where his partners included Sir James Galway. Mr. Arida has been on the music staff at the Juilliard School, Central City Opera, the Castleton Festival, Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, and has held a season-long engagement as Emerging Artist Pianist with Virginia Opera. He holds a master’s degree in collaborative piano from Juilliard as well as a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from SUNY Purchase.
About the Music.
Program at a Glance
This evening’s eclectic and personal program explores some of the lesser-known treasures of the classical song literature as well as Julia Bullock’s own Black American heritage. It moves from four of Franz Schubert’s classical lieder to Samuel Barber’s enchanting Hermit Songs, based on medieval Gaelic poetry and strongly linked to their original singer, Leontyne Price. Gabriel Fauré’s late songs are very different from the melodious early songs more commonly heard; Ms. Bullock has chosen selections from his rarely performed masterpiece La chanson d’Ève, an evocation of Eve’s primeval life in the Garden of Eden. Finally, we shift to jazz and blues classics associated with legendary Black American singers Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Cora “Lovie” Austin, and Alberta Hunter.
About the Composer
Franz Schubert established the German lied as an important art form and then set a standard of excellence no one since has quite matched. He created more than 600 songs in a prodigious outpouring that sometimes saw him composing five songs in a single day. However, it is not the sheer numbers that matter, but rather the songs’ extraordinary quality and enormous emotional range. At the heart of Schubert’s genius lay his unrivaled gift for melody, whether it be the perfect melody to cover all verses in a strophic song or a theme for the piano that is even more crucial to the song’s emotional color than the singer’s line.
About the Works
No less an authority than Johannes Brahms called “Suleika I” of 1821 “the loveliest song that has ever been written.” The poem for this song, and its companion “Suleika II,” is often attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe since it can be found in his compilation West-östlicher Divan, inspired by Goethe’s fascination with the work of 14th-century Persian poet Hafiz (Suleika is one of Hafiz’s characters). However, it was actually written by Marianne von Willemer, an Austrian actress who had a brief but intense relationship with Goethe, who edited it for his collection. Written while Willemer was traveling in 1815 from Frankfurt to Heidelberg to meet Goethe, it is a song to the east wind that blows on her outbound journey. The wind is heard in the piano’s opening measures before whirling ostinato takes over, conjuring both the carriage’s motion and Willemer’s agitated heartbeat. Near the end, the tempo eases, a new three-note motif rings softly, and the key moves from B minor to a brighter B major as the singer anticipates meeting her lover.
The Friedrich Rückert poem to which “Lachen und Weinen” (“Laughing and Weeping”) is set portrays the instability of emotions, oscillating rapidly between laughing and crying. Schubert adds a tenderly sympathetic touch at the words “Bei des Abendes Scheine” as the flightiness briefly falters and the harmonies slide to minor. Setting a true Goethe poem, the wonderfully concise song “Wandrers Nachtlied II” (“Wanderer’s Night Song”) is an example of Schubert’s sublime simplicity in capturing a poem’s mood, which, in John Reed’s words, is a “progression from outward calm to inner peace.” Written in 1816, “Seligkeit” (“Bliss”) sets one of Schubert’s favorite poets, Ludwig Christoph Heinrich Hölty. An uncomplicated strophic song, it is a giddy little waltz that perfectly matches the mood of uncomplicated, existential joy.
Hermit Songs, Op. 29
About the Composer
From an early age, Irish poems and tales fascinated Samuel Barber, who was partly of Irish descent himself. In the summer of 1952, he finally traveled to Ireland, and while visiting sites connected with William Butler Yeats during a trip to Donegal, he found Yeats’ grave to be surrounded by tombstones belonging to people with the Barber name. When Barber returned to the United States, his research turned up some texts in old Gaelic written during the early Middle Ages by anonymous Irish monks and hermits. Their pithy power and earthy expressiveness captivated him.
About the Works
In a note Barber wrote for the publication of his Hermit Songs, he described them “as written by monks and scholars, often on the margins of the manuscripts they were copying or illuminating — perhaps not always meant to be seen by their Father Superiors. They are small poems, thoughts, or observations — some very short — and speak in straightforward, droll, and often surprisingly modern terms of the simple life these men led, close to nature, animals, and to God.”
With a commission from the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation, Barber wrote his ten Hermit Songs between November 1952 and February 1953. A painstaking text setter, he carefully selected translations. Dissatisfied with the versions of two of the texts, he asked W.H. Auden to prepare fresh ones. Barber was considering various famous international singers to debut the Hermit Songs until he heard the young Leontyne Price, then completely unknown. Barber and Price performed the premiere at the Library of Congress in 1953. It was the beginning of a long partnership between Barber and Price, culminating in Antony and Cleopatra.
A Closer Listen
From the 13th century, “At Saint Patrick’s Purgatory” is a pilgrim’s tormented song as he travels to Loch Derg (Red Lake) in County Donegal, a place of pilgrimage for centuries. The pianist’s left hand measures out his relentless steps while the right hand’s bell motif suggests the spiritual solace awaiting him. As with most of the songs, Barber established no meter, allowing the singer freedom to follow the irregular rhythms of the words.
The 12th-century “Church Bell at Night” is one of the aphoristic songs in which Barber captures the blunt speech of the monks. A shimmering bell chord irradiates the song. Attributed to Saint Ita of the eighth century, “St. Ita’s Vision” is one of the loveliest of the Hermit Songs. A broad narrative recitative leads to a rocking lullaby as the saint experiences her mystical vision of the infant Jesus nursing at her breast. Attributed to the 10th-century’s Saint Brigid, “The Heavenly Banquet” is another joyful vision in which denizens of Heaven appear as ordinary human beings at a celestial banquet. The piano’s racing scales fuel the singer’s delight.
“The Crucifixion” comes from a 12th-century anthology entitled The Speckled Band. The piano’s fluting high motif mimics the “cry of the first bird.” The singer’s phrases evoke pain and grief powerfully but without exaggeration. The final twist is the shift of focus away from Christ’s suffering to that of His mother, Mary. Marked “surging,” “Sea-Snatch” is a panicked cry to Heaven by those drowning in a wild storm, whether it be physical or metaphysical. Equally brief, but doubly caustic, are the lyrics and music of “Promiscuity,” a bitter sharing of private information.
From the eighth or ninth century, “The Monk and His Cat,” translated by W.H. Auden, is the cycle’s most infectious song as it describes the contented partnership between the scholar and his cat, whose frisking movements are heard in the piano’s two-note motif. It is also the only song with a fixed meter: a relaxed, lilting 9/8 beat. Also translated by Auden, “The Praise of God” (11th century) is a wild, dervish-like dance with very eccentric rhythmic stresses and cross rhythms.
“The Desire for Hermitage” (eighth or ninth century) seems to be the personal expression of the composer, a man who indeed craved solitude all his life. The stark beginning of the song is a repeated G, first in the piano, then joined by the singer; this single note represents the state of aloneness as well as the surrounding hush. Gradually, the piano and vocal lines become more active, even ecstatic, culminating in a passionate piano interlude that seems to proclaim the intensity and depth of extreme emotional experiences that accompany an individual whose life is spent in solitude.
Selections from La chanson d’Ève, Op. 29
About the Composer
In 1905 at age 60, Gabriel Fauré, was appointed director of the Paris Conservatoire, a revered establishment of French music. In a period of upheaval at the Conservatoire — culminating in the scandal of Maurice Ravel (Fauré’s student) being refused the institution’s top award, the Prix de Rome — Fauré was chosen because he was considered to be a trusted outsider able to bring reform. Not a product of the Conservatoire himself, Fauré had been trained instead at the smaller and less hidebound École Niedermeyer.
This heavy responsibility, however, did not keep Fauré from pursuing his composing career. In fact, he was about to embark on a radical transformation of his musical style away from the limpid, lyrical mélodies that had characterized much of his earlier songwriting. Having already made a shift in his previous song cycle, La bonne chanson, Fauré would now develop a style that de-emphasized melody in favor of vocal and piano music combining an almost austere simplicity with extraordinary sophistication, especially in the harmonic realm.
About the Works
On a trip to Brussels in March 1906, Fauré became acquainted with the poetry of the Belgian symbolist Charles Van Lerberghe. In 1904, Lerberghe had published a volume of 96 poems, La chanson d’Ève, which imagined Eve coming to life in the Garden of Eden without Adam, giving human meaning to Nature’s magnificent creations, of which she is a part. Lerberghe had been inspired to create this work by a glorious garden outside Florence, and Fauré, also a lover of gardens, had matched this by beginning his composition near another sumptuous garden at Lake Maggiore. Fauré reduced the cycle to ten songs, written off and on between 1906 and 1910 while he was simultaneously creating his opera Pénélope.
The narrator of the cycle is Eve herself, a wondrous creature who is mortal and very feminine, and at the same time a representation of all Creation. In his definitive analysis of Fauré’s songs, pianist Graham Johnson describes the implied time scale as immense: “as if Ève is born and dies at opposite ends of the same cosmic day — a day perhaps encompassing millennia.” Omitting the very long first song, “Paradis,” Julia Bullock sings six of the ten songs in the cycle on this evening’s program.
A Closer Listen
“Prima Verba” (“First Word”) is the La chanson d’Ève‘s second song, in which Eve realizes her first words bring the souls of everything in nature to life. The piano and vocal lines initially seem bare and static — in Johnson’s words, “like an empty void.” They soon flower into extraordinary harmonic complexity as nature takes on a new dimension. Eve’s identification with the rose permeates this cycle, as we hear in “Roses ardentes” (“Ardent Roses”). The pantheistic vision of poet and composer reaches an apotheosis at song’s end as the previously restricted vocal line climbs joyously toward the sun, the “supreme force.”
Far from the traditional imagery of a white-bearded old man, God shines as the young creator embodied in His world in “Comme Dieu rayonne” (“How God Radiates”). Johnson writes, “the third verse weaves a glorious light-filled tapestry of sound” as the piano shimmers around the increasingly ecstatic vocal line. “Veilles-tu, ma senteur de soleil” (“Are you awake, my scent of sun”) combines the sights, sounds, and scents of Nature into one rapturous whole. “In this song, sunlight … is uncontainable: with Fauré’s help it searches out and pervades every nook and cranny of harmonic possibility,” writes Johnson, in the extraordinary piano part.
Composed in June of 1906, “Crépuscule” (“Twilight”) was the first song Fauré composed, even before knowing it would spawn a cycle. Until this point in the cycle, the songs have been filled with joy and sensual pleasure. Eve then hears a cry of pain, a sigh in the night that portends sadness. The rising chords of the piano introduction are a recurring theme representing Eden, now being disturbed. The cycle’s final song, “O Mort, poussières d’étoiles” (“O Death, dust of stars”) brings the presence of death. Always at one with Nature, Ève does not fear it, but instead welcomes her dissolution into all of Creation. Fauré’s son Philippe described this stark, uncanny song as “a sort of funeral march toward an open-armed nirvana.”
CORA “LOVIE” AUSTIN
Four Women of Blues and Jazz
In the final section of this evening’s program, Ms. Bullock pays tribute to some of the leading Black American musicians who shaped American jazz, blues, and popular song throughout the 20th century. First we hear the sultry blues ballad “Driftin’ Tide” from 1935, which was closely associated with the renowned jazz singer Alberta Hunter. The infectious, up-tempo “You Can’t Tell the Difference After Dark” also comes from 1935 and was frequently sung by Hunter. It was composed by Maceo Pinkard, one of the leading figures of the Harlem Renaissance and a highly successful composer, lyricist, band leader, and music publisher.
Cora “Lovie” Austin was a formidable jazz pianist and the founder and leader of her own popular band, the Blues Serenaders. Based in Chicago, she specialized in accompanying the leading blues singers of her era, including Hunter, with whom she wrote one of the greatest of all blues classics “Downhearted Blues,” the lament of a woman who loved the wrong man. We will also hear “Frog Tongue Stomp: A Lovie Austin Tribute,” a solo piano piece written by one of today’s prominent jazz pianists, Jeremy Siskind, saluting the legacy of Austin’s flamboyantly distinctive style. With the exception of “Revolution,” which Ms. Bullock will sing a capella, Siskind arranged all of the songs in this section of the program.
This evening’s program concludes with two iconic singers whose fame has never faded: Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. Born Eleonora Fagan in Philadelphia, Holiday re-named herself and was also dubbed “Lady Day” by her music partner Lester Young. The tragedy of Holiday’s life added to the power of her artistry, but her serene love song “Our Love is Different” shows her at her romantic best. Renowned as the “High Priestess of Soul,” Simone, born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, originally aspired to be a classical pianist. When she was turned down by the Curtis Institute of Music, undoubtedly for racial reasons, her career took different trajectory. Discovering her voice as well as her keyboard skills, Simone became the most compelling musicians of the Civil Rights Movement and joined the Selma to Montgomery marches. Ms. Bullock selected Simone’s famous Civil Rights anthem, “Revolution,” as well as her provocative song “Four Women,” in which four individuals of varying skin tones and narratives assert themselves and demand recognition.