American Mezzo-Soprano J’Nai Bridges is One of 20 International Finalists for the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2015 Competition
J’nai Bridges, a third-year member of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, is currently portraying Vlasta in Lyric’s mainstage premiere of Mieczysław Weinberg’s The Passenger. Bridges is one of three finalists from the U.S. for the 32nd year of the prestigious competition, which takes place every second year. The 20 finalists were chosen from nearly 350 applicants. The eight-day competition is considered the premier showcase for opera and concert singers as they launch their careers.
“All of us at the Ryan Opera Center are incredibly proud of J’nai for advancing to the finals of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2015,” said Dan Novak, the program’s director. “She’s worked very hard during her three years here, and what a wonderful culmination of those efforts – to represent the United States in this prestigious international voice competition. We’re thrilled for her!”
“J’nai’s portrayal of an Auschwitz inmate in The Passenger is deeply moving and beautifully sung,” said Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director. “We were overjoyed on opening night of the production to learn that she was selected as a Cardiff finalist. The whole company is excited to have one of our own representing the United States.”
J’nai Bridges is currently performing her ninth role at Lyric since 2012-13. Earlier this season she sang Inez/ Il trovatore; last season she portrayed the Second Wood Nymph/Rusalka and Rosina/The Family Barber.Engagements this season also include Ravel’s Chansons Madécasses at Symphony Center with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Matthew Aucoin, and CSO flutist Jennifer Gunn (May 17); Aucoin’s “Celan Songs” in a contemporary chamber-music concert with members of the CSO at the Art Institute of Chicago (conducted by Aucoin) and Suzuki/Madama Butterfly at Wolf Trap Opera. The mezzo-soprano, a third-year Ryan Opera Center member, has been heard in other 20th-century works in Chicago, including Bernstein’s Songfest (Ravinia Festival), Bolcom’sCabaret Songs(Grant Park Music Festival), and Stravinsky’s Priboutky (Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut). In Lyric’s 2015-16 season, she will portray Carmen in Jimmy López’s Bel Canto, based on the bestselling novel by Ann Patchett, which has its world-premiere performances Dec. 7, 2015 through Jan. 17, 2016.
A native of Lakewood, Washington, Bridges has portrayed Polly/The Beggar’s Opera and Ino/Semele at the Manhattan School of Music, and roles of Mozart, Bellini, Bizet, Barber, Henze, and Stravinsky at the Curtis Institute of Music. She has sung the title role/Carmen at both the Glimmerglass Festival and Finger Lakes Opera (Geneseo, New York). Other recent engagements include performances at the Kennedy Center and with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Opera Orchestra of New York. Bridges has received the Women’s Voice Fellowship from the Luminarts Cultural Foundation, a Sara Tucker Grant, a Sullivan Award, and the Marian Anderson Award.
“Being chosen as a finalist is definitely the biggest honor I’ve received in my career so far,” said Bridges. “It means a great deal to me to represent the United States – and Lyric Opera and the Ryan Opera Center – in this competition. My time here definitely prepared me for this opportunity. Singing a huge and wide variety of roles and covers, plus the song recitals on WFMT, has broadened my repertoire. It’s really a good feeling to know that your hard work is paying off, and to be able to perform on an international level is gratifying and reassuring.”
Bridges is the fifth member of the Ryan Opera Center to become a finalist of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. Soprano Nicole Cabell won the Main Prize in 2005, directly after concluding three years as a Ryan Opera Center ensemble member. That year baritone Quinn Kelsey was a finalist for the Song Prize (as was Cabell) while still a member of the Ryan Opera Center. Soprano Erin Wall represented Canada in 2003 between her second and third years with the Opera Center, reaching the final round; and mezzo-soprano Guang Yang, representing China, won the Main Prize in 1997 before beginning her Ryan Opera Center tenure.
American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, who triumphed as Jane Seymour in Anna Bolena at Lyric earlier this season, won both the Main Prize and the Song Prize at the most recent Cardiff competition in 2013. The competition also helped to launch the careers of three internationally celebrated artists who have scored great successes at Lyric Opera: Finnish soprano Karita Mattila (Main Prize, inaugural competition, 1983); Siberian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who returns to Lyric in recital next season (Main Prize, 1989); and Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel (Song Prize, 1989).
This year’s finalists were selected from 55 countries. Those selected to compete represent 15 nations. The singers will perform their own programs of operatic and concert works at St. David’s Hall, Cardiff, June 14- 21. They will be accompanied by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera. Judges for the main prize are David Pountney (chairman), John Fiore, Soile Isokoski, Claron McFadden, and Dennis O’Neill.
The winner of the main prize will receive £15,000 and the Cardiff Trophy. The winner of the Song Prize, awarded to the best singer of Lieder and art song, will receive a £5000 prize and trophy. The competition is organized by BBC Wales in association with Welsh National Opera and supported by The City of Cardiff Council.
About the Ryan Opera Center
The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center was established in 1974 as the professional artist-development program for Lyric Opera of Chicago. Since its inception, the Ryan Opera Center has been recognized as one of the premier programs of its kind in the world. That standing is maintained by providing the finest up-and-coming singers with unparalleled training and experience. The program is administered by director Dan Novak, music director Craig Terry, advisor Renée Fleming, and director of vocal studies Julia Faulkner. For more information, please visit Lyricopera.org/RyanCenter.
About Lyric Opera of Chicago
Founded in 1954, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s mission is to express and promote the life-changing, transformational, revelatory power of great opera. Lyric exists to provide a broad, deep, and relevant cultural service to Chicago and the nation, and to advance the development of the art form.
Lyric is dedicated to producing and performing consistently thrilling, entertaining, and thought-provoking opera with a balanced repertoire of core classics, lesser-known masterpieces, and new works; to creating an innovative and wide-ranging program of community engagement and educational activities; and to developing exceptional emerging operatic talent.
Under the leadership of general director Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis, and creative consultant Renée Fleming, Lyric strives to become the great North American opera company for the 21st century: a globally significant arts organization embodying the core values of excellence, relevance, and fiscal responsibility.