Mezzo J’Nai Bridges rising fast in opera world

J’Nai Bridges was just 24 and still in school when she sang her first “Carmen” as a young artist at the Glimmerglass Festival in 2011.

“I was, oh, way too young,” she recalls with a laugh. “It felt good back then, but it just fits like a glove now.”

Bridges will be trying on that glove again, headlining a production of Bizet’s masterpiece at the San Francisco Opera in June. It’s her biggest step to date in a career that has taken the African-American mezzo-soprano to major houses in the United States and Europe — that will lead to her Metropolitan Opera debut next season as Nefertiti in Philip Glass’ “Akhnaten.”

“As a performer, J’Nai really has everything,” said soprano Renee Fleming, who got to know Bridges as adviser to the Ryan Center. “She is exciting onstage, a compelling actress, with a gorgeous presence. But most important of all, J’Nai’s voice has a beautiful, distinctive timbre. ... I don’t see any limits to how far she could go.”

Associated Press

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