By Samantha Johnson
Opera singer Julie Lenz fiddles with her coffee cup while she sits inside of Homage Bakery, but she’s not nervous. After her graduate recital on Wednesday, Nov. 25, she has an air of confidence about her as she explains why she chose music as her profession, but more importantly why she sings opera. While the grandiose style of singing has been around for centuries, it’s not common to meet someone who specializes in it. Lenz, who’s graduating with her master’s degree in vocal performance, said that she couldn’t picture herself doing anything else.
“The thing that really cemented it for me was I was doing chorus for Nevada Opera … That week everyone had gotten food poisoning and they sang the end of this Mozart opera a capella and it was just amazing,” Lenz said. “It’s something you’ll never hear unless you’re doing that sort of profession.”
Lenz grew up in a creative family, with her dad being an artist and her mother playing the flute. She recalled how she would sing along to Disney movies as a child and how she once memorized a song from “Blazing Saddles” at 4 years old. Lenz played the harp for 10 years, but started her formal voice training in high school as she performed in various events.
Lenz held her graduate recital in the Nightingale Concert Hall in the Church Fine Arts building on campus as a requirement for her master’s degree. She sang in a dialect called Occitan, which is only spoken by a few groups in southern France and other parts of Europe, but also in Russian. Lenz said she chose the passages she sang because she had never done them before, but also because she had a special place in her heart for Russian literature.
“That opera, Eugene Onegin, is my favorite opera,” Lenz said. “Onegin, the character, is one of the first antiheroes in Western literature, and I have a big thing for antiheroes.”
After Lenz graduates she hopes to perform in next semester’s opera, but then she will be auditioning for her artist’s diploma, which is the highest degree someone can receive in musical performance. She dreams of signing a contract and being able to travel around Europe performing, but wants to return to her home in Reno one day after she builds her reputation as an opera singer.
“I really think that it’s an art that’s worth exploring and exposing people to. [You have to] find your passion in music and follow it,” Lenz said. “You can’t get by on hard work alone or talent alone; it has to be both together.”
Lenz praised the UNR music faculty for its helpfulness and for its high caliber of teaching. She believes the vocal program is going to take off in the future and it’s already a school worth putting on a resume.
Her performance with the Fresno Philharmonic last spring was a defining moment for Lenz. It was her first professional gig and she remembered how full the event was. It was one of the first times she knew that opera was what she wanted to do for the rest of her career.
“I sang really well, I thought, and it just felt like I’m making it,” Lenz said. “This is going to be my life.”
For more information on Lenz’s next performances, visit the UNR music program website at www.unr.edu/cla/music or follow Lenz on Twitter @JulieQuinnLenz.
Samantha Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SamRayJohnson.