American mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges, known for her “rich, dark, exciting sound” (Opera News) is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after talents of her generation.
In the 2018-19 season, Ms. Bridges returns to San Francisco Opera for her first performances in the title role of Carmen, and makes her role debut as Katsurbai in Philip Glass’ Satyagraha in a return to Los Angeles Opera. She sings the chamber version premiere of John Adams’ El Niño with the American Modern Opera Company and makes her debut with Dutch National Opera, reprising the role of Josefa Segovia in John Adams’ highly acclaimed Girls of the Golden West, which she created in 2017. Of this performance, the Wall Street Journal said she “brought a lush mezzo and a defiant ferocity.”
On the concert stage, Ms. Bridges makes her Carnegie Hall solo recital debut alongside pianist Mark Markham, featuring a program of traditional repertoire mixed with African-American songs and spirituals. This is followed by a recital performance entitled “Still We Rise: A Spirituals Celebration” at Charleston’s Gaillard Center. Additional concert engagements include Mozart’s Requiem with the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder with the Amarillo Symphony.
Last season, J’Nai Bridges made role and house debuts as Preziosilla in La forza del destino with Opernhaus Zürich under the baton of Fabio Luisi. In a return to San Francisco Opera, she created the role of Josefa Segovia in the world premiere of John Adams’ Girls of the Golden West, directed by Peter Sellars. Concert engagements included works by Mozart with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel in at Walt Disney Hall; holiday concerts with the Philadelphia Orchestra; and Bernstein centennial celebrations with both the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra.
Debuts with San Francisco Opera and the Bavarian State Opera as Bersi in Andrea Chénier bookended Ms. Bridges’ 2016-2017 season. She joined Los Angeles Opera as Nefertiti in Philip Glass’s Akhnaten and Vancouver Opera as Sister Helen Prejean in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking. Concert performances included the Marilyn Horne Song Celebration at Carnegie Hall; concerts with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Gustavo Dudamel at the Hollywood Bowl; Farewell to Christoph Eschenbach with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center; Gershwin selections with the New York Philharmonic at the Bravo! Vail Festival led by Bramwell Tovey; and Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection” with the Louisville Orchestra and the Ft. Wayne Symphony Orchestra.
Operatic highlights of recent seasons include a return to Lyric Opera of Chicago to sing the role of Carmen in the world premiere of Bel Canto, an opera by Jimmy Lopez, based on the novel by Ann Patchett, the title role in The Rape of Lucretia at Wolf Trap Opera, Suzuki in Madama Butterfly with San Diego Opera and Wolf Trap Opera, and Adalgisa in Norma with Knoxville Opera.
Ms. Bridges’ numerous concert engagements have spanned Ravel’s Chansons Medécasses with Yo-Yo Ma and members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Ravel’s Shéhérezade with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg; the mezzo-soprano solo in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Gustavo Dudamel and the L.A. Philharmonic, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela in Berkeley, and in Caracas, Venezuela, and with the Oregon Symphony; in concert with Festival de Torroella de Montgrí in Spain; as a featured soloist in the GRAMMY Salute to Music Legends concert at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles; works by Mozart and Schubert with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago; the role of Mademoiselle Dangeville in Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur with the Opera Orchestra of New York; the mezzo-soprano solo in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection” with the Lexington Philharmonic; chamber works with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Art Institute of Chicago; and other soloist engagements with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago, the New Jersey Symphonic Orchestra, as part of WFMT 98.7’s recital series, and with the Conservatory Project at The Kennedy Center.
In 2015, J’Nai Bridges completed a three-year residency with the distinguished Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Highlights of her tenure at the Lyric include Inez in Il trovatore under the baton of Asher Fisch, Vlasta in Mieczysław Weinberg’s The Passenger led by Sir Andrew Davis, Flora in La traviata, and two student matinee performances of Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia. As a young artist with the Glimmerglass Music Festival, Ms. Bridges covered Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro and Mrs. Jenks in Copland’s The Tender Land.
Ms. Bridges represented the United States at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition in 2015. She was the recipient of a 2016 Richard Tucker Career Grant, a first prize winner at the 2016 Francisco Viñas International Competition, a first prize winner at the 2015 Gerda Lissner Competition, a recipient of the 2013 Sullivan Foundation Award, a 2012 Marian Anderson award winner, the recipient of the 2011 Sara Tucker Study Grant, the recipient of the 2009 Richard F. Gold Grant as the singer with a promising operatic career, and the winner of the 2008 Leontyne Price Foundation Competition. J’Nai demonstrated her versatile artistry providing vocals for the historic DVD documentary Bishop Richard Allen: Apostle of Freedom as well as at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with Chorale Le Chateau.
A native of Lakewood, Washington, J’Nai Bridges earned her Master’s degree from the Curtis Institute of Music, where her operatic credits included Carolina Kirchstetten in Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers, Idamante in Idomeneo, Carmen in Le tragedie de Carmen, Teresa in La sonnambula, Iras in Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra and Baba the Turk in The Rake’s Progress. While at Curtis, Ms. Bridges also appeared as the Madrigalist in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut with the Opera Company of Philadelphia. She received her Bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from the Manhattan School of Music, where she appeared in the U.S. premiere of Xenakis’s Oresteia, and as Polly in The Beggar’s Opera to rave reviews from The New York Times.