AME Church Opera Star Continues to Soar
Making her San Francisco Opera debut in 2016 as Bersi in “Andrea Chénier,” American mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after talents of her generation. Her other performances in the 2016-17 season include her debuts at Bavarian State Opera as Bersi, at Los Angeles Opera as Nefertiti in “Akhenaten,” and at Vancouver Opera as Sister Helen Prejean in “Dead Man Walking;” as well as featured soloist appearances with the Marilyn Horne Song Celebration at Carnegie Hall, the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in the “Farewell to Christoph Eschenbach” concert, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the NDR Symphony Orchestra in its inaugural week in the Elbphilharmonie.
Bridges’s recent performances include the roles of Carmen in the world premiere of “Bel Canto” with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Suzuki in “Madame Butterfly” with San Diego Opera, and the title role in “The Rape of Lucretia” with Wolf Trap Opera; as well as concert engagements with Yo-Yo Ma and members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; with the L.A. Philharmonic and Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel; with the NDR Symphony Orchestra in her first performances of Ravel’s “Shéhérazade;” and with the Oregon Symphony.
Bridges recently completed a three-year residency with the distinguished Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago. She has received numerous awards and recognitions including: a 2016 Richard Tucker Career Grant, first prize winner at the 2016 Francisco Vinjas International Competition, first prize winner of 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 as the singer with a promising operatic career, and the winner of the 2008 Leontyne Price Foundation Competition. Bridges was previously a Young Artist at the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, New York.
A native of Lakewood, 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. She joined the AME Church at age five with her family and her home church is Allen AME Church, Tacoma, Washington. She credits the singing of hymns in church as one of the influences on her operatic career. Bridges has worshiped in churches throughout the AME Connection and has found great value in the support she has received from the congregations she’s visited. “I’m very thankful to be AME, I feel the presence and support of my AME family where I go.” Already a rising star, Bridges hopes to have a career on the opera stage with a goal being to sing in all of the highest opera houses in the world as well as continuing to expose the African-American community to opera. Her faith is key to her success. She points out, “I am blessed because I am living in my purpose and I encourage people to realize that there are no limits. Listen to the Lord, obey and live your purpose.”
Bridges is becoming one of the most sought-after talents of her generation. Currently, she is a contestant in the San Francisco Opera Emerging Star Competition. The competition ends on August 15. To support J’Nai Bridges in the San Francisco Emerging Star Competition click here.