Soprano Julie Biggs
(Photo courtesy Julie Biggs)

Julie Biggs - Diva Divine

As published in the June/July 2002 issue of Stylus Magazine
(University of Winnipeg Students Association)

- By John Iverson

Julie Biggs was born to sing. This outstanding emotive soprano/mezzo-soprano was born and raised in Winnipeg. She graduated from Minot State University with a Bachelor of Arts in music performance and a Bachelor of Science in music education, and went on to complete her Master of Music in opera studies at Northwestern University.

Since then Julie has already appeared in several opera productions, including Die Fledermaus and Orpheus in the Underworld, performing with such varied companies as the Fargo-Moorhead Civic Opera, the Western Plains Opera Company, and the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Manitoba. In addition, she has given several recitals, including engagements with the Minot Symphony and the Ost-West Symphony in Germany.

I queried Julie as to whether there was any room for personal interpretation when preparing for an opera role:
"I think there is incredible room for personal interpretation in these arias. You just have to listen to maybe two or three versions of the same song to realize that. Because of personal experiences, you have this storehouse in your brain of emotions and experiences, and how you feel about certain things. And then what you do is apply that to the song you’re singing. You take what happened to you in your own personal life and you sort of superimpose it over the song you are interpreting, and what happens as a result is your own personal fingerprint, emotional fingerprint, on the song. You have to come up with your own personal interpretation, and it has to be from you, or the character is two-dimensional."

Personal experiences indeed contribute to the emotion expressed within music, but few artists are able to communicate this to the listener. So if you thirst for that elusive emotive quality in your music like I do, then you will surely find that Julie Biggs delivers in a big way. For in this day and age of over-hyped, inexpressive performers, she is truly a musical treasure.

Now when it came to putting together her debut recording My Loving Days, Julie took a calculated risk in avoiding the safe haven of standard opera arias and such. But Julie is a true artist, a risk taker, and the gamble paid off with this excellent recording. She gives music lovers a fresh set of infrequently recorded classical material, comprised basically of art songs from such noted composers as Stefano Donaudy, Kurt Weill, and Winnipeg’s own Chester Duncan. Julie describes how she went about choosing material for this album:
"I put a lot of thought into content because I have a theory about classical music listeners. I think the majority of them are collectors. So I was trying to come out with an album where the majority of the material wasn’t frequently recorded by other musicians, so that this would be a good CD for collectors to pick up and add to their collection. So I went through and I found some beautiful songs. I mean, that was the first criteria; they had to be beautiful, and not frequently recorded. And then I also added my Canadian content following that same criteria."

So what could possibly follow in the wake of this bold artistic endeavour? A hasty return to safe waters? Not if you’re Julie Biggs. She illustrates her next recording project:
"The focus is going to be passion. Whereas on this CD My Loving Days the focus was on romance, I think on this second one I’d like to focus more on passion and the different passions... there’s anger, there’s desire, and so on."

So while her debut album is purely classical, featuring only piano and voice, Julie is moving in a slightly different direction for the next album. She wants to add different types of instrumentation, and make an album that is a little more mainstream and accessible to the listener. She also mentioned the possibility of doing a cycle of folk songs on this recording. If all goes according to schedule, this album will be ready for an autumn release this year. She then plans to put together a unique Christmas album, likely utilizing her carolling ensemble The Yuletide Singers on a few of the tracks.

And what does the future hold for Julie Biggs:
"I have several goals, one of them being to be heard more often in the city and surrounding areas."

And this goal is certainly becoming a reality, as Julie recently performed an exceptional concert right here in Winnipeg. And she already has on her burgeoning performance schedule a part in Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro in North Dakota in late May, a concert with the Missouri River Valley Chamber Orchestra in North Dakota in September, and a part in the opera Della's Gift with the Little Opera Company of Winnipeg in November. Julie is also planning concerts in rural Manitoba this year.

You can anticipate many more great things from this very talented and congenial young soprano in the coming months and years. Unfortunately for Winnipeg audiences, most of the opportunities to display her artistic talents thus far have been away from home. But Julie has more than proven that she deserves to be in the spotlight not only here in her own back yard, but all over the world! She is a bright star on the rise! A diva divine!

Bravo Julie!  Manitoba arts organizations take heed!

For more information on Julie Biggs visit her website

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