• American Soprano, Juliet Petrus, is preparing to record her first solo CD, a CD of Chinese and American art song. How does an American soprano end up with a CD full of Chinese music? Clearly, inspiration strikes when one least expects it. Just ask Juliet.

    Recognized for her effortless coloratura, Juliet is steadily making her mark as a
    versatile soprano for both operatic, symphonic and recital repertoire. In 2014 alone, she made her successful solo debut with the St. Louis Symphony and Colorado Symphony orchestras singing the soprano solos in Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, and 2013 brought both her Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall debuts. In previous seasons, she has sung with US houses such as Austin Lyric Opera as the Queen of the Night and Michigan Opera Theater. But, if you have a moment to sit with the passionate young singer, she will inevitably steer the conversation in the direction of her greatest musical passion: China.

    The seven trips to China in the past four years, the hours of practice of new repertoire and studying of Chinese grammar, all of this has prepared Petrus to accomplish what she hopes will be her greatest artistic achievement thus far. In May 2015, Juliet will record a CD of Chinese art songs previously unrecorded by a Western artist, and previously unrecorded American art song rooted in Chinese culture.

    “I was honored to be chosen as a participant in the 2011, inaugural season of I Sing Beijing, now known as I Sing International Young Artist Program. I Sing chose 24 singers to be the first, Western young artists to travel to China and study Chinese music and language. I had no idea that that trip would change my life and completely reshape my artistic trajectory.”

    In that first season, Juliet and her other Western colleagues spent five weeks in Beijing studying with world-class faculty, many of whom from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, including program founder and bass, Hao Jiang Tian. That summer of 2011, Juliet made her National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing.
    “There was this palpable energy coming from the audience, a feeling on my skin that I will never forget. It was the first time, as a classical singer, that I ever felt like a rock star. I knew from that concert that I had to find a way to keep Chinese music and China permanently in my life.”

    The following year, Juliet was one of two participants asked back for a second season with I Sing in Beijing. She returned for another six weeks, performing again at the National Center in Beijing, as well as making her concert debut in Tianjin. At the end of that season, however, Juliet received an unexpected offer: a scholarship to study Chinese in China.

    “We were all standing a reception after our final concert, and one of the major financial sponsors of I Sing got up to speak. Suddenly, in front of this room full of people, I realized that she was speaking directly to me, complimenting me on the progress I had made with my Chinese these past two years, and offering me a scholarship to come to China to study Chinese. I was speechless, and of course saw it as an incredible opportunity.”

    But, besides being a professional singer, Petrus is also a devoted teaching-artist where she lives in Chicago, and a mother.
    “I wasn’t sure how it would all work out, with my teaching, as well as with my son. But, I couldn’t shake the fact that that China just kept calling me back. It’s an amazing thing to want something, and be wanted in return.”

    And so, in spring 2014, Petrus and young her son moved to Shanghai to study at Tongji University. During her Chinese studies, she also worked closely with one of her mentors at the Shanghai Conservatory, whom she had met through I Sing. In that semester stay, besides performing exceptionally well in her classes, she programmed, learned and performed her Shanghai solo recital debut.

    “After my time in Shanghai, it became very clear to me that my next step was going to have to be to record a CD of Chinese songs. I chose classical vocal music over other vocal styles at an early age, because I always saw it as a gateway into other languages and cultures. If I studied opera, I knew that I’d get to study French and German and Italian. Never did I imagine that Chinese would also fall into that mix. My passion has always been bringing new music to new audiences, to act as an ambassador of sorts. There is so much incredibly beautiful Chinese music that I’d been introduced to these past few years. All I have wanted to do since learning about it is share. I shared it with my students, with my colleagues.”

    “This CD will finally allow me to connect these two worlds that I love so dearly. I can bring this Chinese music, worthy of international attention, to a Western audience, and introduce a Chinese audience to some of the contemporary American art song that I often return to. As an educator, a CD is an invaluable tool to introducing new music to students. I know that it will allow me to get this music in the right hands –the next generation of singer — both in the US and China, so that it can flourish in years to come.”

    “I won’t be able to accomplish the project without the help of like-minded music lovers.
    I hope that there are enough people out there who have an artistic curiosity about the world, as I do, people who believe in music as an ambassador. And, I hope that they are willing to help fund my project!”

    She hopes, at the very least, that you are curious enough to see her singing in Chinese at Lincoln Center and at her Shanghai solo recital debut: http://youtu.be/ZT5TtuERxpI

    If you’re interested in helping to fund Juliet’s debut CD project, you can visit her campaign through the Indiegogo or Fractured Atlas websites. Thanks to fiscal sponsorship through Fractured Atlas, all donations are tax-deductible!





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