American classical singer Julia Bullock is “a musician who delights in making her own rules.” – The New Yorker
Combining versatile artistry with a probing intellect and commanding stage presence, she has, in her early 30s, already headlined productions and concerts at some of the preeminent arts institutions worldwide. An innovative programmer whose artistic curation is in high demand, her curatorial positions include collaborative partner of Esa-Pekka Salonen in 2020-21, his inaugural season as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony; 2019-20 Artist-in-Residence of the same orchestra; Artist-in-Residence of London’s Guildhall School for the 2020-22 seasons; opera-programming host of new broadcast channel All Arts; founding core member of the American Modern Opera Company (AMOC); and 2018-19 Artist-in-Residence of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Also a prominent voice of social consciousness and activism, Bullock is, as Vanity Fair notes, “young, highly successful, [and] politically engaged,” with the “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.”
As Artist-in-Residence of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bullock curated five thought-provoking programs in some of the museum’s most iconic spaces: “History’s Persistent Voice,” which combined traditional slave songs with new music by American women of color, including the world premieres of new Met commissions from Tania León, Courtney Bryan, Jessie Montgomery and Allison Loggins-Hull; a program of Langston Hughes poetry and settings, featuring New York Philharmonic principal clarinetist Anthony McGill, the Young People’s Chorus of New York, and American composers and vocalists; a new chamber arrangement of John Adams’s Christmas oratorio, El Niño, at the Cloisters; AMOC’s account of Hans Werner Henze’s El Cimarrón (“The Runaway Slave”); and, marking the first full-length performance on the museum’s grand staircase, Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine, the musical portrait of Josephine Baker that was conceived by Bullock in collaboration with Peter Sellars and written for her by MacArthur “Genius” Fellows Tyshawn Sorey and Claudia Rankine. The residency crowned a banner 2018-19 season for Bullock. She took part in the world premiere of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and reprised Dame Shirley, the leading role she created in Adams’s Girls of the Golden West, for the opera’s European premiere at Dutch National Opera. She also gave the Boston premiere of Perle Noire at Harvard’s OBERON, made her Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra debut in Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, and gave a North American recital tour with her frequent piano partner, John Arida.
Bullock recently made several key operatic debuts: at San Francisco Opera in the world premiere of Girls of the Golden West, at Santa Fe Opera as Kitty Oppenheimer in Adams’s Doctor Atomic, at Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and Dutch National Opera as Anne Truelove in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, and at the English National Opera, Spain’s Teatro Real, and Russia’s Perm Opera House and Bolshoi Theatre in the title role of Purcell’s The Indian Queen. Her wide-ranging repertoire also encompasses the title roles of Massenet’s Cendrillon, Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges and Janaček’s The Cunning Little Vixen; Monica in Menotti’s The Medium; Susanna in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro; and Pamina in his The Magic Flute, which she sang on tour in South America under the direction of Peter Brook and in concert with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Bullock reunited with Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2019, for season-opening performances of Barber’s Knoxville. The collaboration was just one of her important recent orchestral engagements. As part of her 2019-20 residency with the San Francisco Symphony, she joined the orchestra under Music Director Designate Salonen for a pairing of Ravel’s Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé with Britten’s Les Illuminations. The English composer’s song cycle was also the vehicle for debuts with the symphonies of Milwaukee and Indianapolis, where she performed under the baton of Marc Albrecht. Under Andris Nelsons’s leadership, she headlined the Bernstein centennial gala that launched the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s 2017-18 season, and Bernstein’s music also saw her make debuts with the San Francisco Symphony, led by Michael Tilson Thomas; at the Hollywood Bowl, with Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic; with Japan’s NHK Symphony under Paavo Järvi; and with the New York Philharmonic, in open-air concerts under Alan Gilbert’s direction in Vail, Santa Barbara and multiple New York City parks. At the invitation of Sir Simon Rattle, she made debuts with both the Berlin Philharmonic, in Kaija Saariaho’s La passion de Simone, and the London Symphony Orchestra, in Maurice Délage’s song cycle Quatre poèmes hindous. Her other concert highlights include performing Adams’s El Niño with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
In 2014, Bullock gave her first U.S. recital tour, capped by her debut at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Since then, she has maintained a thriving solo career. In 2019, she joined pianist Cédric Tiberghien under Katie Mitchell’s direction for the American, British, Belgian and Russian premieres of Zauberland (“Magic Land”), a new work juxtaposing Schumann’s Dichterliebe with original songs by Bernard Foccroulle and Martin Crimp. This followed the high-profile North American recital tour Bullock gave in 2018, which featured masterclasses and local school performances in each city, with dates at New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Cal Performances at UC Berkeley and Boston’s Celebrity Series. Other solo performance highlights include her 2017 Disney Hall debut and appearances at the 2016 Mostly Mozart and Ojai Music festivals, where she collaborated with Roomful of Teeth and the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) on Peter Sellars’s new staging of La passion de Simone and on the world premiere of Josephine Baker: A Portrait, the original prototype for Perle Noire.
Bullock’s growing discography already comprises a number of distinguished recordings. Her account of Quatre poèmes hindous with Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra was captured live on DVD, as was her title role appearance in Sellars’s production of The Indian Queen for Sony Classical. Selected as one of the New York Times’s “25 Best Musical Tracks of 2018,” her starring role in Adams’s Doctor Atomic, recorded with the composer conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, was a nominee for the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. This marked Bullock’s second appearance on a Grammy-nominated recording, following her live account of West Side Story with Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, a nominee for Best Musical Theater Album in 2014.
Her other honors 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. She was chosen as one of WQXR’s “19 for 19” artists to watch in 2019; among the “Best Classical Music of 2018” by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and Philadelphia Inquirer; as one of Opera News’s “18 to Watch in 2018-19”; and among the New York Times’s “Best Classical Music of 2016.”
Bullock’s political engagement is informed by her own mixed heritage, and she is committed to integrating community activism with her musical life. High in demand as a speaker in panels on diversity, equity and inclusion in the arts, Bullock has taken part in livestreamed conversations presented by Music Academy of the West, Long Beach Opera, Los Angeles Opera and other organizations. As well as trying to undertake outreach work in each city she visits, she serves on the Advisory Board of Turn The Spotlight, a foundation designed to empower women and people of color, both on stage and behind the scenes, to make a more equitable future in the arts. She has also organized and participated in benefit concerts for 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 nonprofit serving war-affected children and adolescents through music education and performance programs in Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Uganda.
Julia Bullock was born in St. Louis, Missouri, where she joined the artist-in-training program at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis while in high school. She went on to earn her Bachelor’s degree at the Eastman School of Music, her Master’s degree in Bard College’s Graduate Vocal Arts Program, and her Artist Diploma at New York’s Juilliard School. It was there that she first met her husband, conductor Christian Reif, with whom she now lives in Munich.
“Hodges… is one of the leading performers of advanced European music… He makes seemingly unintelligible music speak for itself… And is a pianist with a flabbergasting technique and instantly engaging musicality.” – LA Times
An active and ever-growing repertoire that encompasses such composers as Beethoven, Berg, Brahms, Debussy, Schubert and Stravinsky reinforces pianist Nicolas Hodges’ superior prowess in contemporary music. As Tempo Magazine has written: “Hodges is a refreshing artist; he plays the classics as if they were written yesterday, and what was written yesterday as if it were already a classic.”
Born in London and now based in Germany, where he is a professor at the Musikhochschule Stuttgart, Hodges approaches the works of Classical, Romantic, 20th century and contemporary composers with the same questing spirit, leading the Guardian to comment: “Hodges' recitals always boldly go where few other pianists dare... with an energy that sometimes defies belief.”
Nicolas Hodges’ virtuosity and innate musicianship give him an assured command over the most strenuous technical complexities, making him a firm favourite among many of today’s most prestigious contemporary composers. Collaborating closely with such contrasting figures as John Adams, Helmut Lachenmann and the late Karlheinz Stockhausen is central to Hodges’ career, and many of the world’s most revered composers have dedicated works to him, including Thomas Adès, Gerald Barry, Elliott Carter, James Clarke, Francisco Coll, Hugues Dufourt, Pascal Dusapin, Beat Furrer, Isabel Mundry, Brice Pauset, Wolfgang Rihm and Miroslav Srnka. Hodges enjoys a particularly close relationship with Sir Harrison Birtwistle, who recently described him as “becoming like my Peter Pears.” In September 2018, it was announced that the eminent composer, and long-term collaborator of Nicolas Hodges, Rebecca Saunders, had been selected by Roche Commissions as the 10th recipient in their commissioning series. The new commission, a piano concerto for Hodges, will be premiered at the Lucerne Festival, by Hodges and the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra, in late August 2020, and will subsequently be toured in Europe.
Recent performance highlights for Nicolas Hodges have included the premiere of Simon Steen-Andersen’s award-winning Piano Concerto, performed with Francois-Xavier Roth and the SWR Symphony Orchestra Freiburg Baden-Baden as part of the Donaueschingen Festival in 2014, as well as the world premiere of Variations from the Golden Mountains by Sir Harrison Birtwistle at London's Wigmore Hall. Hodges also recently gave the world premiere of Gerald Barry’s Piano Concerto, with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Peter Rundel, and the UK premiere with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Thomas Adès in Birmingham, followed by a repeat performance at the Aldeburgh Festival. He also gave the world premiere of Thomas Adès' own piano concerto In Seven Days with the London Sinfonietta, followed by further performances of the work with orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
Further performance highlights for Hodges have included the world premiere performance of Elliott Carter's Dialogues for piano and orchestra, with the London Sinfonietta and Oliver Knussen, as well as the US and Berlin premieres of the work, with the Chicago Symphony and Berlin Philharmonic orchestras respectively – both conducted by Daniel Barenboim – and the New York premiere, at Carnegie Hall, with the MET Orchestra.
Hodges’s has established successful relationships with many of today’s leading orchestras and ensembles, and engagements include regular performances with orchestras such as the BBC Symphony, Boston Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, hr-Sinfonieorchester Frankfurt, London Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Melbourne Symphony, MET Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg, Philharmonia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, St Louis Symphony, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic, Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich and WDR Sinfonieorchester Cologne, and ensembles such as ASKO/Schoenberg, Amsterdam, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Contrechamps Geneva, International Contemporary Ensemble New York and the Remix Ensemble, Porto.
Among the distinguished conductors with whom Nicolas Hodges regularly collaborates are Thomas Adès, Daniel Barenboim, George Benjamin, Martyn Brabbins, Sylvain Cambreling, James Levine, Susanna Mälkki, Cornelius Meister, Jonathan Nott, Emilio Pomarico, David Robertson, Pascal Rophé, François- Xavier Roth, Peter Rundel, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Pierre-André Valade, Ilan Volkov and Ryan Wigglesworth.
Also an avid chamber musician, Hodges has performed in Berlin (Musikfest), Brussels (Ars Musica), Hamburg (Ostertoene), Helsinki (Musica Nova), London (Barbican Centre, Wigmore Hall, Southbank Centre and the BBC Proms), Lucerne (Festival), Madrid (INAEM), Melbourne International Arts Festival, New York (Carnegie Hall and Mostly Mozart), Paris (IRCAM and Festival d’ Automne), Rome (IUC), Salzburg (Festival and Biennale), Strasbourg (Musica), Stuttgart (Eclat), Tanglewood (Festival), Tokyo, Vienna (Wien Modern) and Zurich (Tage für Neue Musik). He also collaborates regularly with the Arditti Quartet, Adrian Brendel, Colin Currie, Ilya Gringolts, Anssi Karttunen, Michael Wendeberg, Carolin Widmann and has been a member of Trio Accanto since 2013.
Nicolas Hodges’ varied discography includes Thomas Adès’ piano concerto In Seven Days, with the London Sinfonietta and Thomas Adès (Signum Classics); two discs of works by Harrison Birtwistle; and a live recording of Luca Francesconi's piano concerto with the Orquestra Sinfónica Casa da Musica. On the Wergo label, Hodges has recorded “Voces Abandonadas”, comprising works by Walter Zimmermann; a disc of works by Brice Pauset entitled “Canons for solo piano”; and “Songs and Poems”, which includes repertoire by Hans Thomalla, Walter Zimmermann and Wolfgang Rihm with Trio Accanto.
“The Piano Concerto by Gyorgy Ligeti, played with astonishing virtuosity, and brilliant digital and rhythmic adroitness by Nicolas Hodges …” – The Sydney Morning Herald