What was your earliest exposure to classical music? When did you begin performing and at what point did you decide to pursue it as a career?
I was first exposed to classical music as a child. I started singing in second grade and in one of my very first voice lessons, I told my teacher that I wanted to sing a song in Italian for my grandpa since he is Italian. My voice teacher at the time gave me “Nel cor piu non sento” from the “Twenty-Four Italian Songs and Arias” book. I loved singing that song and loved singing in Italian, which I had never done before. However, it wasn’t until high school when I was in my junior year, that I saw my very first opera—I will never forget it: Tosca at Los Angeles Opera. I was in the opera program at my high school, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), and it wasn’t until that program that I was truly exposed to opera. At LACHSA, I performed in my very first opera, sang my first aria, and learned all about this beautiful art form. It wasn’t until I was in my senior year of high school, that I made the decision to pursue opera as a career. In my senior year, I took a trip to New York with my family. There, we saw Broadway shows, and went to see an opera at The Met: Rigoletto staring Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón. I remember being in complete awe at the way Anna and Rolando sang. The Broadway shows we saw were very entertaining and fun, but to me, there was no comparison vocally. At the opera, I had never experienced voices that beautiful and powerful. I was amazed at the performer’s stamina, and was completely mesmerized by the music. I was instantly inspired by Rolando and Anna’s performances and told myself that I definitely wanted to pursue a career in opera.
Do you have any musical influences beyond classical music? Who inspires you artistically?
Absolutely! I did not grow up listening to classical music. I grew up listening to jazz, Motown, soul, and pop music. Since I wasn’t raised with classical music, most of the people that inspire me artistically are not opera singers. First, and foremost, I absolutely adore Frank Sinatra. I love everything about him—his voice, the music etc. I also love Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone. All three of these ladies had amazing voices, but what I admire most and am still inspired by every time I listen to their music, is their ability to make each song truly unique and their “own.” They were so unique in many different ways all of which inspires and reminds me daily to stay unique and true to myself. Other artists that inspire me are, Nat King Cole, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Amy Winehouse, Coldplay, Muse and lots of others!
What was your reaction when you learned you had been selected as an Adler Fellow? What are you most looking forward to as you begin your first year in the Adler Fellowship?
I was SO excited. It was truly a dream come true. I got my Bachelors and Masters degrees at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and I was always exposed to the Adler Fellows while studying there. I would see them in performances and attend their Schwabacher Recitals etc. I was always amazed at everyone’s talent and I have always wanted to be a part of this incredible program. I am humbled and blessed to be an Adler Fellow. I still have to pinch myself sometimes just to make sure this really is real and happening! I am truly excited for everything this program has to offer. I am especially looking forward to my assignments. I will be covering Cesira in the world premier of Two Women and covering Eva in Die Miestersinger von Nürnberg. Getting to attend rehearsals and learn from incredible singers is amazing. I can’t wait to be a sponge and soak up all of the information I can!
You are originally from Southern California, and spent many years studying at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music just down the street. What do you love most about the city, and what keeps you coming back? What are some of your favorite places or things to do here in the Bay Area?
San Francisco is amazing, and I m so happy that I have been able to call this beautiful city “home” for the past seven years. When I applied to go to school at the conservatory, I had never been to San Francisco, but heard it was such a beautiful city. After living here for seven years, I can honestly say that it is one of the most beautiful cities that I have ever been to. I especially love how unique and diverse this city is. One of my favorite things to do in the city is try all of the fabulous restaurants. I love that most of the restaurants in this city are not a part of chains, and that they are their own exclusive place. In San Francisco there are always new restaurants opening, so its fun to go with friends, catch up, and share a great meal together. I also love to just walk around and explore the city. I live in in the Marina relatively close to Crissy Fields, and when the weather is nice, I like to walk along Crissy Fields and stare at the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge.
Julie starred as Blache DuBois in Merola's production of A Streetcar Named Desire
Photo by Kristen Loken
What do you think are some of the greatest challenges the opera world is currently facing? Do you see any solutions to these obstacles?
In a changing world, some say that opera is dying, and this is one of the greatest challenges that the opera world faces. Personally, I don’t believe in that definition, but I strive to search for new ways to make opera more accessible to a large public, including the younger generations. I feel that we still need to continuously educate and introduce opera to the younger generations as much as we can in order to keep this beautiful art form alive. Many people around the same age as me, and younger, have never experienced opera. I try to make it my personal mission to educate people who don’t know anything about opera, and encourage them to come and see opera. In general, people have preconceived ideas about opera, and are intimidated mostly by the whole idea of opera. I have found that most of people that I talk to after seeing their very first opera really love it. They always say that they were so shocked at how accessible it was to them, and that’s what opera is all about—accessibility. The stories of opera still ring true today and the music heightens the overall experience. The more that we can educate and show people how accessible opera is, the better the chance we have to keep this art form alive.
What do you think is the most difficult part of beginning a career in opera? What advice can you offer to other young singers studying to pursue a career in classical music?
Beginning a career in any field is tough, but especially tough for opera singers. Personally I think that the most difficult part of beginning a career in opera is getting exposure to the right and necessary people. It is so easy to get lost when starting out, because there are thousands and thousands of singers who are the same voice type as you, and auditioning for the same role you are. It is important to sing for as many people as you can and make connections with people who can help you get work. It is also extremely important to get feedback and to work on the parts of your performance/voice that are not as strong. My advice to any young singers studying to pursue a career in classical music is to be open, willing, and have an incredible work ethic. You have to have a positive outlook or else you will be miserable. You have to develop a thick skin, and accept that not everyone is going to like your voice—and that’s okay! Remember, this is a business after all. You can’t please everyone in this world. It is also so important to know who you are as an artist and to find certain qualities that you can portray in your performance and voice that not many other singers may have. Strive to be unique and stay true to yourself.
Julie sings at the Merola Gala Finale. Photo by Kristen Loken.
Is there any particular struggle you have encountered in your singing career so far? What has allowed you to overcome and be successful thus far?
One particular struggle that I am currently working on in my singing career is time management. As Adler Fellows, we have A LOT of music to learn for various performances and operas. Most often, we are preparing two, or even three operas/scenes/pieces at a time. At first, this was very overwhelming to me, but I have learned how to prioritize and learn music efficiently with a hectic and busy schedule. Setting realistic goals has allowed me to over come this struggle; I have found that by setting these realistic goals for myself, I am able to learn music and practice more efficiently.
Who are your favorite opera composers? Do you have any dream roles you would like to perform?
While I love many composers, my favorite composers are: Puccini, Mozart, Strauss, Rachmaninoff, Poulenc and Korngold. They were such musical geniuses, and their music maintains a strong emotional connection with me. Some of my dream roles are the Countess, in le nozze di Figaro, Elsa in Lohengrin, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Liù in Turandot and the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier.
When you're not singing what are some of the activities you can be found doing?
When I’m not singing, I love to do all sorts of things! I love spending time outdoors: going on walks, hikes, and exploring the city. One of my favorite things to do is go to The California Academy of Sciences and visit the amazing penguins! I love penguins and I could sit for hours watching them! I also love going to museums and try to visit them regularly. I love history, and getting to experience it up close and personal is such an amazing thing. I am also a big hockey fan and love the LA Kings. (Sorry, Shark fans.) If there is a King’s game on TV, I am most likely watching it.
Julie as Blanche DuBois and Casey Candeblat as Harold "Mitch" Mitchell in Streetcar
Photo by Kristen Loken.