About Julia Hollander
For a dozen years I was a freelance opera director based in London. Which sounds a very rarified sort of life, but I look back on it as entirely eclectic and sociable and practical.
I had decided on opera as my vocation because of its claim to bring together all art forms – gestamtkunstwerk, as Wagner had called it (basically, I couldn’t decide which I loved more – literature or music or painting, so I set out to do them all at once). It was my job to tell stories by bringing together singers (from all sorts of backgrounds) and instrumentalists and technical teams and publicists and the whole mechanism of what opera has always been (despite its class associations in English culture) – popular entertainment.
At the same time, I pursued my own singing work – mainly in professional London choirs. I was hanging out with the best singers around, trying to emulate them, and taking singing lessons when I had the opportunity. Which was fun while it lasted.
But then then children came along, and I no longer had the energy and ambition that opera demanded. So I turned to teaching (stagecraft, and theatre history and design) and writing (three published non-fiction books), which were much more compatible with being home with young children.
But the all-important musical element of my previous work was missing. So over the past five years I have returned to singing and music-making as my main occupation. Alongside my performance work and teaching, I have developed a particular interest in singing with disabled people, especially those suffering from dementia.
Singing together is a wonderfully social and healthy activity, especially for those who are cut off from a ‘normal’ social life; even when other forms of communication are no longer part of their lives. I know I can touch people with my voice, and they touch me with theirs; I know it is good for us on all sorts of levels.