Spotlight on: Julia Dawson

Spotlight on: Julia Dawson

Jenna Simeonov
This is the first in a series of feature interviews that we’ll be publishing over the summer. We’re talking to singers, conductors, pianists, the whole lot. If you think you’d be a good candidate, or know an artist who would, shoot us a message at [email protected].

Julia Dawson is a Canadian mezzo-soprano currently based in the United States. Julia is a hardworking, creative artist, and she’s been keeping busy singing at the Academy of Vocal Arts, the Glimmerglass Festival, and Opera Philadelphia, to name a few. Get to know this smart singer:

1. Why do you sing, and why are you pursuing it professionally?

The ability to express music and text with one’s voice is an incredible gift. I love the visceral excitement that is borne of singing, coupled with the constant exploration and questioning that are the mainstays of an artist’s journey. I am gradually learning to live outside my comfort zone; this is the place where growth and discovery occur, and music begins. With an opportunity to live like this, how could I choose any other path?!

2. What does “good singing” mean to you, and what does it feel like when you achieve it?

As a singer, I am a servant to the music. I strive to cultivate a freedom of delivery that allows me to spontaneously express the words and music of every piece I encounter. This requires the implication of bel canto technique that I understand to mean “giving up one’s voice to the breath,” and allowing the articulators to work freely, without impeding airflow. This idea of airflow of course helps one cultivate an individual “chiaroscuro” sound that constitutes operatic singing. As a lyric voice, I’m also very concerned with cultivating a suitable “squillo” in order to be heard in a 2000-plus seat house.

I am, of course, more or less successful depending on the day! … but when I am in the vicinity of this ideal it feels easy to articulate text and I’m able to access my full range evenly.

3. What do young singers need to do more of? What should they do less of?

I think the path of each singer is unique; it’s hard to generalize about what young singers need or don’t need.

Having said that, I would tell young singers to PRACTICE SIGHT READING … A LOT! I also think singers can and should eliminate comparative thinking; it’s the death of growth and creativity.

4. Do you have a “bucket-list” role that you’d like to sing? Why?

  • Mélisande
  • Salome
  • Winterreise

Because they would all be incredible musical adventures!

5. How do you explain your job to non-music folks?

I describe opera as the synthesis of all art forms: music, dance, drama, and visual art - what’s not to love?! Not to mention that I get to run around and scream all day…

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