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Julie Boulianne Fills Laurel Heights With French Melodies

Mezzo-soprano Julie Boulianne was forthright in the description of her recent recital for the Tuesday Musical Club.

“I’m from Quebec, we tell the truth no matter what!” she joked, before explaining that her program was made up largely of already-familiar-to-her repertoire because she’s in between debut roles in two different opera companies.

It was to the audience’s benefit, though. Boulianne possessed a beautiful control of her voice, both in melody and volume for the hall, Laurel Heights United Methodist Church.

“I think composers love the mezzo timbre and the warmth of the mezzo-soprano for the art song,” Boulianne explained to me after the show. She said the mezzo voice also “suits the environment in which art song is supposed to be performed. It’s meant to be in a more intimate setting—a smaller room, and we don’t necessarily want somebody who’s singing super high all the time.”

Boulianne’s program included music by French composers Gabriel Fauré, Henri Duparc, Georges Bizet, and Francis Poulenc, whose “Four Poems of Guillaume Apollinaire” were delivered with sprightly enthusiasm and good humor. Another French highlight of the program were two songs by Pauline Viardot-Garcia, a lesser-known composer, performer, and voice teacher of the latter half of the 19th century. Boulianne said she wanted to include the songs because “I don’t think they’re as popular as they should be.” (You can hear "Havanaise" in the link below.)

I asked her if it’s any different performing for an audience on stage as opposed to in a recital, and though Boulianne said the process of learning the material is the same for her, the recital setting leaves no room for error.

“When you’re nervous, or when you don’t feel good about [your] voice, you can always move on the stage to fix what feels wrong,” Boulianne explained. “But when you do a recital, every single little movement you make is seen, and it becomes a very big thing! You have to be very engaged, no matter what you sing or what you do. Otherwise the audience knows!”

Judging from the audience’s reaction at Laurel Heights, they know very well a good thing!

Hear excerpts from Julie Boulianne’s recital in the SoundCloud links above, and on Performance Saturday on Saturday, November 19, at 7:00 p.m. on KPAC 88.3 FM.