OPERA PLACES Julie Boulianne takes us to Vienna, Austria

by | Jan 26, 2024 | Artist of the Week, Featured, News

French-Canadian mezzo soprano Julie Boulianne is coming to us from Vienna, Austria where she is performing Mère Marie in Wiener Staatsoper‘s production of Dialogues des Carmélites running January 28 – February 4 (info and tickets here).

Julie’s last few seasons have been packed with performances around the world, including the title role in Massenet’s Cinderella at the Metropolitan Opera, Dorabella in Mozart’s Così fan tutte at both the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden and the Glyndebourne Festival, and Irène in Handel’s Theodora with Weiner Staatsoper. Lucky for Canada, she frequently comes back to her native country to perform, including recent performances as Rose Valland in the world premiere of Julien Bilodeau’s La Beauté du Monde  with Opéra de Montréal and Berlioz‘s L’enfance du Christ with Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal. Later this season, Julie will join the Seattle Symphony for Mahler’s Symphony No.3, running April 11-14 (tickets here) and Opéra national de Lorraine as Romeo in their production of I Capuleti e i Montecchi, running June 23-29 (tickets here).

This week we sat down to chat with Julie about the town she has become well acquainted with; where to get the best food, which of the numerous museums to visit, and the best way to get around! Read on to find out more!

City where you’re working?

How long are you working on contract?
21 days, it’s a very short contract.

What’s the opera house like?
Vienna Staatsoper is such an iconic building!  It’s beautiful outside and inside. It’s in a touristic area so it’s always very busy around the house. It’s a good size to sing in as well (about 1700 seats). The theater was originally built during the 1860s and it has a rich history. It survived bombing during World War II among other things. Working in a busy theater like Vienna Staatsoper is fascinating. It has to be so well organized. The staff and artists who work there are the best in the business. Also, your voice gets to be carried by the amazing sound of the Vienna Philharmonic, it doesn’t get much better than that!

Where is the most peaceful place in the city?
There are gorgeous and peaceful places everywhere around the city including mountains and lakes but if I want to relax and stay in the Innere Stadt, I go to Stadtpark. Volksgarten is also nice but I prefer Stadtpark. Bear in mind that these places are always full of tourists anyway, haha!

Best coffee or tea?
Hard to say: I like to enjoy my coffee at home. Being a bit of a coffee geek, I travel with my own beans and my portable espresso machine, therefore I don’t always try all the best places in town BUT when in Vienna I sometimes go to Caffè vom See which is very close to my apartment and convenient. I also go to Joseph Brot. It’s a bakery chain that can be found in a few different locations.

Coolest bar or restaurant you’ve been to?
There are so many! I recommend Naschmarkt of course, a must-see if you spend time in Vienna. The place is full of small restaurants, bars and stands where you can buy all kinds of fresh products, spices, desserts, etc. There is also a restaurant on top of Haus des Meeres which gives you a full view of the city. It’s really beautiful. There is a place near Stephansplatz called Miznon which has delicious mediterranean street food with nice vegetarian options. Swing Kitchen also makes good vegan burgers (I’m obsessed with burgers, but I try not to eat meat when/if possible). If you like cocktails, you should try Loos American Bar, another iconic place full of history with a very interesting architecture. They serve amazing cocktails.  








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An activity you have done that is unique to the area?
Last time I was in Vienna, it was for a production of Theodora and the set was a replica of Café Central so I did go to the real Café Central and indulged a Sachertorte, just to get a sense of what it’s like being a client in this posh and famous place.

Is there something unexpected that happens locally that you discovered?
Not really, but if you don’t like touristic places, maybe Vienna is not for you? Vienna is like a gigantic museum.

How did you find your accommodation?
Airbnb, it’s the 4th time I’ve rented the same flat. It’s in Freihausviertel near Naschmarkt, I like the location and it’s very quiet.

What’s the most important thing you think of when it comes to finding accommodation as a singer?
I like to be able to walk to work: it wakes my body up before rehearsal and it helps me avoid public transportation and its germs. The place needs to be quiet and I try to make sure I won’t have to carry my big luggage up too many stairs. I also like having a well equipped kitchen which allows more variety in my diet. A place in which I can sing on top of all that is like the holy grail.

Have you had a chance to explore some galleries or museums? My first trip to Vienna was many years ago and I remember rushing to visit Sisi Museum and Mozarthaus. Oh typical young opera singer I was! Dreaming of music and beautiful gowns! I never have as much time as I would like to visit when I’m in a city for work, but of course I’ve seen the main ones (Belvedere, Albertina, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Naturhistorisches Museum). Last time I was in Vienna, we were performing at Museumsquartier, which has the Leopold Museum and the MUMOK which I both recommend. Of course you have to go to Stephansplatz and see the cathedral and the spectacular Schönbrunn Palace.

Is there anything else you’d recommend?
Walk everywhere, it’s the best way to enjoy the city. Oh! And if you’re there in December: Christmas Markets are everywhere and so much fun!

Ⓒ Clive Grainger
Béatrice et Bénédict with Opera Boston
©Carol Rosegg
L’Étoile with New York City Opera
ⒸArseniy Krasnevsky / Shutterstock

Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites
Wiener Staatsoper

Jan 28 – Feb 4

CONDUCTOR Bertrand de Billy
DIRECTOR Magdalena Fuchsberger
SET DESIGN Monika Biegler
COSTUME DESIGN Valentin Köhler

VIDEO Aron Kitzig

BLANCHE Nicole Car
LE CHEVALIER Bernard Richter
MADAME DE CROISSY Michaela Schuster
MADAME LIDOINE Maria Motolygina
MÈRE MARIE Julie Boulianne
Michael Kraus
SOEUR CONSTANCE Sabine Devieilhe
Thomas Ebenstein
KOMMISSAR 1 Andrea Giovannini
KOMMISSAR 2 Jusung Gabriel Park
KERKERMEISTER Clemens Unterreiner


»Blanche, c’est moi«, Francis Poulenc wrote about the main character of his only full-length opera. »Blanche, that’s me«. The composer borrows here the bon mot of another great French artist – »Madame Bovary, c’est moi« Gustave Flaubert is said to have said about his novel character. And like the quotation, Poulenc makes his own the story of Blanche de La Force, who enters the Carmelite convent of Compiègne near Paris at the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789. The story of the 16 nuns of Compiègne, who were executed in Paris in 1794, forms the historically verified framework for a fictional plot in which the composer and librettist Poulenc takes on the ultimate human theme: The fear of death.

Francis Poulenc traces his characters in a captivatingly clear score which, like almost all his compositions, moves within the tonal framework, more precisely that of a diatonic neoclassicism. Poulenc, whose great passion was song composition, is also a composer of voices and language here: the music serves the singing, the singing forms the characters, which Poulenc shapes with individual rhythmic diction and melody and lets them enter into the dialogue that gives the work its title. The work’s liveliness is also due to the distinctive work with recurring motifs that characterise the characters, but above all set atmospheric accents of an uncanny richness of facets. Magdalena Fuchsberger’s production takes up this diversity, leading the Carmelite nuns in haunting images through the »flats of the Inner Castle« all the way to the scaffold.

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