Julie Adams, Soprano – ‘Songs Sacred and Profane’ with Curious Flights, 8/29

by Sean Martinfield | See: By Sean, Sean's Reviews and Interviews

Soprano Julie Adams, a current member of the Adler Fellows, will be featured this Saturday, August 29, in An English Portrait – the opening program of the 2015/16 season of Curious Flights. The concert will take place at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music at 8pm. Artistic Director and Founder Brenden Guy has a distinct flare for hooking-up the unexpected / sometimes neglected composition with the ideal artist. Julie will sing John Ireland’s Songs Sacred and Profane, accompanied by pianist Miles Graber. Composed between 1929 and 1931, this collection of six songs are among the composer’s best known and are set to texts by English poets Alice Meynell and Sylvia Townsend Warner and Ireland’s preeminent poet, William Butler Yeats. The program also includes:
Rhapsodic Quintet, Op. 31 (Herbert Howells)Brenden Guy and One Found Sound
Valiant For Truth (Vaughan Williams); The Shepherd Carol (Benjamin Britten); My Spirit Sang All Day (Gerald Finzi):  St. Dominic’s Schola Cantorum, Simon Berry, music director
Sonata for Two Pianos (Arnold Bax):  Peter Grunberg and Keisuke Nakagoshi
Sinfonietta, Op. 1 (Benjamin Britten):  Curious Flights Chamber Ensemble, John Kendall Bailey, conductor

JULIE  ADAMS“When Brenden came to me with this idea, he mentioned Benjamin Britten. I said, ‘You know, I like Britten – but he is such a common composer. Let’s not do that, let’s do something else.’ We talked about John Ireland’s ‘Songs Sacred and Profane’. I liked the title, let’s try it. And then I listened and really liked them. I always want to do things that are not common and rarely performed. I’m excited to bring this work to life. John Ireland is a very complex man. He describes this fascinating set of songs as a very personal document. Towards the later part of his life, Ireland wrote a lot of notes on his music – but then destroyed them. That would have given such a gateway toward what particular pieces meant. He wrote ‘My Fair’ in July 1929, which apparently was a time of huge personal crisis. Ireland spends his life alone or with a housekeeper and is very private. He has friendships, but would go through terrible times with them – always some kind of crisis. He was grumpy and anti-social – a man prone to alcoholism. There’s no proof, but they do think he was gay. He was a prolific letter-writer. He wrote so many letters to his friends and family. These serve as clues to his personality. I just wonder about this man.”

JOHN IRELANDJulie Adams is a winner of the 2014 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and a 2015 Richard Tucker grant. An alumna of last season’s Merola Opera Program, she appeared as Blanche in André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire. As an Adler Fellow, her assignments for the up-coming season with San Francisco Opera include covering Eva in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and First Lady in The Magic Flute. I asked Julie if taking-on Wagner was a bit of a quantum leap.

“It is. That’s why I’m definitely going slow. I think the extent of my Wagner singing will be Eva and Elsa. It’s still a big undertaking. I think I will be most ready in about five years. We’ve talked about this in my classes. What is often misunderstood, is that I have a lot of bite to my voice and a natural ping. So I’ve never had a problem carrying over an orchestra. But there’s a difference between having bite and ping and the actual size of your voice. So, yes, when people hear me they want me to sing this bigger rep and I’m always hesitant to do it. There is a time and a place – and not now. Being able to learn the role and cover the role of Eva here at San Francisco Opera is an incredible opportunity to start exploring the world of Wagner. I consider myself a lyric soprano. If you really look at Eva and Elsa, they are lyric sopranos in a Wagner opera. I’m no genie, but even with this bigger stuff I’m singing now – yes, it’s one aria – you have to be smart about ‘can I do this role right now?’ and ‘can I do it in the long run?’ because nobody wants to develop a wobble by their thirties. So, I’m just being smart. I’m a lyric and, in the meantime, there’s no reason why I can’t do a million Bohèmes and roles like that.”

Coming back to the special world of John Ireland (1879–1962) and the atmospheres of Songs Sacred and Profane, I asked Julie, “What’s your hit on how to influence and persuade the young and inexperienced concert-goer? How do you suggest that here is another avenue of music that you need to explore? Certainly you would be a great advocate, considering some of us might be coming to the concert to experience you in this rare musical opportunity.”
Tom Gunther (Stanley) and Julie Adams (Blanche). Photo, Kristin Loken

“It’s funny because I take an Uber pool – they pick up people if they’re along the way of where you are going. Most of the time we’ll get into a conversation about what we do. Here in this city of start-ups, the regular question becomes, ‘What start-up do you work for?’ When I respond, ‘I’m an opera singer’ – I get these wide eyes and they go, ‘What….’  They don’t know what to do! Some have no idea what opera is or a symphony. It’s usually because they weren’t raised on that or they’ve never felt the need or taken the opportunity to go. Some have these preconceived notions of the 300-pound woman with horns on her head. Others say, ‘Opera! That’s so cool! I want to see an opera.’ It’s not that they aren’t interested – they just don’t have any idea about it. So, I make it a personal issue that when I meet someone who is not in the music business and has never been to a concert or opera – to take them. I think it’s important to see that there are other beautiful things in this world.”

Click here to order tickets on-line: An English Portrait

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