J’Nai Bridges Is Conquering the Opera World
When the mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges shows up at the Civic Opera House for our interview, she’s lugging a huge empty duffel bag to clean out her stuff. She has just completed her third of three years at The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, Lyric Opera’s training program for young singers. And one place she’ll soon pack for (probably in a different bag) is Wales, where she’ll compete as one of 20 semifinalists in the BBC’s Cardiff Singer of the World competition.
Bridges, 28, came to Chicago in May of 2012 to join the Ryan Center, immediately jumping aboard a speeding train of vocal coaching and repertoire drilling. By early September, she was on stage at Millennium Park singing Carmen in Carmen, as Lyric mounted the opera’s complete Act Four for its annual Stars of Lyric Opera free concert. A whirlwind opera life: Just over three months in, and already dying on stage. “That set the tone of my whole time here,” Bridges says, “a really high tone.”
The mezzo-soprano just finished the Lyric’s training program and heads toward a promising career.Chicago Mag
Ryan Center singers butter their bread singing down-the-card roles and understudying the big roles in Lyric’s mainstage productions. Bridges started right off with one of the small roles, singing the Second Maid (of five) in Richard Strauss’s Elektra to open Lyric’s 2012–13 season. Lyric works the Ryan Center singers hard in filling their heads with parts. “My repertoire is huge now,” Bridges says. “I’ve learned 15 roles. I’ve performed 10.”
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Image: Todd Rosenberg