Hometown: St. Louis
Think of: Steven Blier, who runs the New York Festival of Song, once told Bullock that if “Shirley Verrett and Dawn Upshaw were to have a child, I would be their hybrid.”
What caught our eye: On Sunday, Jan. 18, Bullock, a seasoned soprano, is set to perform at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum as part of its Sunday Concert Series and Young Artist Showcase in Calderwood Hall. The program, which she says she has wanted to do for a long time, is centered on race and gender in classical music.
Light bulb moment: “I knew I always wanted to perform, but I would say the light bulb moment to studying classical music would be when I was 18, I guess,” Bullock said. “I met a man named Scott Schoonover, and he runs a small opera company in St. Louis called Union Avenue Opera, but at the time he was coaching for the Artists in Training program for Opera Theatre [of] St. Louis.” With his guidance, she gained a new appreciation of the close relationship between text and music: “It was something that I just hadn’t really tapped into fully, and hadn’t hit me in a hard way and in a deep way.”
Biggest thrill: Bullock admitted there have been “so many wonderful scenes” so far in her career. “There have been so many wonderful experiences and I’ve worked with great people. Every step has been clear.”
Inspired by: “One artist that I turn to is Lorraine Hunt Lieberson,” Bullock said. Hunt Lieberson — who worked often in Boston, where she met and collaborated with director Peter Sellars — was a trained violist who began singing at age 26. Bullock calls her a “tremendous musician” who she admires for her integrity, her approach to music, and her careful examination of each project she took on. “She was really careful with every project she chose to do,” Bullock said. “She wanted to make sure it was with great purpose.”
Aspires to: “I think I’m living into it now,” Bullock said of her aspirations. “I guess I just want to keep finding freedom of expression and getting over whatever fears I have.” She added that she hopes to be able to express herself through her music. “I think I have a fair number of things I want to say through music,” Bullock said. “I don’t view art as purely decorative.”
For good luck: “I try to sleep. I usually don’t eat very much before performing. I just drink a lot of water, and I often drink green tea and eat a few bananas,” Bullock said. “I try to stay grounded and connected with the pianist that I’m working with, so I’m not floating away in the music.”
What people should know: “I will certainly be making a visit to the rest of the museum,” Bullock said, calling the Gardner one of the best in the world. She added that visiting museums while she tours the world for performances is a favorite perk.
Coming soon: Two days after the Gardner performance, Bullock will fly to London to do Purcell’s “The Indian Queen,” which she’s previously performed in Spain and Russia, directed by Sellars at the English National Opera. She added that there are many other performances on the rise in 2015 that she is excited about.