Two time Grammy® Award-winning American mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges, known for her “plush-voiced mezzo-soprano” (The New York Times), and “calmly commanding stage presence” (The New Yorker) has been heralded as “a rising star” (Los Angeles Times), gracing the world’s top opera and concert stages.
The 2022-23 season will spotlight Ms. Bridges in one of her signature roles as Carmen with debut engagements at the Arena di Verona, Canadian Opera Company, and a return to Dutch National Opera, and Lyric Opera of Chicago. As a native of Tacoma, WA, Bridges eagerly anticipates her Seattle Opera debut in a concert performance of Samson et Delilah as Delilah in January 2023. Additional concert engagements include Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony with the Detroit Symphony in November, and a world premiere by Carlos Simon in April 2023 with the National Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Bridges’ recital engagements for the season begin with the performance of a world premiere by Jimmy Lopez at 92NY in December, and continue throughout 2023 at Washington University, Thomasville Center for the Arts, The Cliburn, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, San Francisco Performances, and the Mondavi Center in Davis, California.
Ms. Bridges’ 2021-22 season highlights included numerous world premiere engagements as a guest artist in The Kennedy Center’s 50th Anniversary Season. Ms. Bridges’ time in Washington D.C. also included performances with The National Philharmonic in the world premiere of Adolphus Hailstork’s A Knee on the Neck, and Mozart’s Requiem, and her first performance of the Verdi Requiem with the Cathedral Choral Society. She also appeared with the Amarillo Symphony as a guest artist in a world premiere piece by Chris Rogerson entitled Sacred Earth, and she gave a solo recital at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton. In June 2022 she performed Lieberson’s Neruda Songs with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel as part of the Power to the People! festival, followed by her debut with the San Francisco Symphony singing Jocasta in Peter Sellars’ production of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. She concluded her summer season singing a solo recital at Caramoor.
In the midst of the worldwide pandemic, she emerged as a leading figure in classical music’s shift toward conversations of inclusion and racial justice in the performing arts. In 2022 she was announced as one of the Kennedy Center’s NEXT50 cultural leaders. Bridges led a highly successful panel on race and inequality in opera with the Los Angeles Opera that drew international acclaim for being a “conversation of striking scope and candor” (The New York Times). In early 2021, Ms. Bridges was featured in the Converse shoe brand’s All Stars Campaign for its Breaking Down Barriers collection. Bridges also performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel for two episodes of the digital SOUND/STAGE series, and as part of the Global Citizen movement’s Global Goal campaign, a program which also included Coldplay, Shakira, Usher and more. The pandemic also forced the cancellation of Ms. Bridges’ numerous debuts during the 2020-2021 season including the title role of Carmen at The Metropolitan Opera. Bridges’ 2019 – 2020 season included her highly-acclaimed debut at The Metropolitan Opera as Nefertiti in a sold-out run of Philip Glass’ opera Akhnaten, as well as a house and role debut with Washington National Opera as Dalila in Samson et Dalila.
Other recent highlights include the 2022 Grammy® Award-winning Metropolitan Opera production of Akhnaten and 2021 Grammy® Award-winning recording of Richard Danielpour’s oratorio The Passion of Yeshua with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, performing at the National Library of Congress to honor legendary fashion designer Diane von Furstenburg as she received the 2022 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership Award, her sold-out Carnegie Hall Recital debut, her role debut of Kasturbai in Satyagraha at LA Opera, and her debuts at Dutch National Opera and the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. Ms. Bridges also created the role of Josefa Segovia in the world premiere of John Adams’ Girls of the Golden West at San Francisco Opera, and performed in the world premiere of Bel Canto at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, an opera by Jimmy Lopez based on the novel by Ann Patchett.
Bridges is a recipient of the prestigious 2018 Sphinx Medal of Excellence Award, a 2016 Richard Tucker Career Grant, first prize winner at the 2016 Francisco Viñas International Competition, 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 from The Shoshana Foundation, and the winner of the 2008 Leontyne Price Foundation Competition. J’Nai completed a three-year residency with the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, represented the United States at the prestigious BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition and was a Young Artist at the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, New York.
A native of Tacoma, Washington, she earned her Master of Music degree from Curtis Institute of Music, and her Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance from the Manhattan School of Music.