Opera News – Rising Stars

Her rich, dark, exciting sound and easy top (which mistakenly leads some to think she’s a soprano-in-progress) were developed by Joan Patenaude Yarnell at the Manhattan School of Music and Patricia McCaffrey at the Curtis Institute. Bridges, now twenty-eight, recalls that both women spent a lot of time coaching her on what people might say about her and how not to pay attention to it. “I’ve had to use my wits to filter out good and bad information,” she says. “At the end of the day, it’s whatever works for me.”

Growing up near Tacoma, Washington, Bridges was a star point and shooting guard on her high-school basketball team and had a few athletic scholarships for college. “My basketball coach in high school told me I was a huge disappointment to the team, because I was singing opera, and I had to pick either the team or opera. I did pick, and I made the right decision. But being an athlete taught me discipline, and I’m grateful for that.”

Last spring, mezzo J'Nai Bridges was one of a handful of American artists competing for Cardiff’s Singer of the World prize.

Opera News

There is a figure outside the opera world who has served to inspire Bridges — Maya Angelou. “I knew her,” she says. “She was all for justice and humanity and happiness. She used to say to me, ‘Whatever you need to be the happiest, you try that. Do it.’ I think she wanted me to know who I am and develop and have big goals. She loved everyone and didn’t exclude. She did what she needed to do on this earth. It was really hard to see her go.”

Read the entire feature here.