Artist of the Week: Julia Bullock

American Soprano Leads a New Production of ‘Theodora’ in Her Royal Opera House Debut

By Francisco Salazar

On Jan. 31, the Royal Opera House is set to present a new production of Händel’s Oratorio “Theodora.” The work has not been heard in the Covent Garden since its 1750 premiere and this season audiences will get to see a feminist light on the story with an all-star cast and conductor.

Leading the cast is Julia Bullock who is making her role debut as Theodora and her highly anticipated debut at the Royal Opera House. In preparation for the role, Bullock noted that “I did my own independent research and exploration of Theodora based on additional source material. Over the past months, I’ve been reading about various Theodoras who lived centuries before the librettist Thomas Morell and composer George Friedrich Händel premiered their oratorio in 1750 at the Royal Opera House.”

The production will also mark the first time Bullock sings a work by Händel and she added that “I’m undeniably flooded with many thoughts and feelings.”

Those feelings especially come from having discovered recently that the famed composer held shares in the Royal African Company, one of the principal slave-trading companies. In a recent interview with the Times she said, “It’s a really challenging issue for me. He invested in the slave trade in 1720, yet here he is 30 years later writing ‘Theodora,’ which, if it doesn’t try to combat various forms of human violence, including genocide, rape, and trafficking, at least tries to interrogate them. Did he have a feeling of guilt or transgression that he was trying to make up for? I don’t know, but instead of overlooking that tension I am trying to hold it within myself as I prepare to perform.”

Throughout the years the soprano has become one of the most versatile singers of her generation. She has curated numerous programs, diverse group of arts presenters, museums, and schools and has been an advocate for modern music as well as the classics. She is also a core member of the American Modern Opera Company (AMOC) and has given numerous world premieres of important works like “Fire Shut up in My Bones,” “Girls of the Golden West,” and “Upload.” Her repertoire includes the works of John Adams, Mozart, Massenet, Ravel, Barber, and Janáček, among many others.

For audiences not in London for Theodora, the Royal Opera House will film the production. The soprano also returns to New York for a production of “Upload” and will return to the Ojai Music Festival. She will also headline the world premiere of John Adams’ “Anthony and Cleopatra” in the fall at the San Francisco Opera.


Throughout the year’s Bullock has been featured on numerous recordings like “West Side Story” and “Dr. Atomic” as well as “The Underground Railroad.” She can also be seen on a DVD of “The Indian Queen” and Ravel’s “Quatre poèmes hindous.”

Here is a look at the soprano singing from “The Rake’s Progress” and “Upload.”