Saturday, October 20, 2012

New York Times: Janai Brugger Discusses Her Approaching Met Debut

[Janai Brugger (Chester Higgins, Jr./New York Times)]

John Malveaux of sends this link:

IT can be hard to tell from competitions the kind of artist an unformed young singer will become. But from the moment she walked onstage at the finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in March, it was clear that the soprano Janai Brugger, 29, had a rare confidence and poise. And when she opened her mouth, in arias from Charpentier’s “Louise” and Mozart’s “Magic Flute,” it was even clearer.

She was named a grand prize winner of the auditions, and in June took first place in Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition. Not long afterward the Met pounced, announcing that she would make her company debut as Liu in Puccini’s “Turandot” on Oct. 30, replacing an ill performer. And to top off a whirlwind year, she is also expecting her first child. “Yes, I found out I was pregnant three hours before I walked onstage at Operalia,” she said.

Zachary Woolfe spoke with Ms. Brugger at the opera house about her swift rise, her opera-obsessed mother and overcoming stage fright. These are excerpts from the conversation.

Q. How did you start singing opera?
A. I started voice lessons the end of my freshman year of high school. My voice teacher started training me classically, but I told her, “I’m really not into classical music, I’m into musical theater.” And she said that classical training is still good for the voice and keeping yourself healthy. I started entering small competitions and I entered both categories. And I had more success in the classical. I was really confused.

So by the time college came around I just felt that maybe this was the path I was supposed to go down. I never in my life would have thought I’d be singing opera. It’s not that I didn’t like it, I just didn’t think I could do it. My mother had taken us since I was little — she’s an opera fanatic — but I had never tried to sing it.

Q. Did you go straight to grad school?
A. No, I needed a break. What I tell a lot of high school kids is that you just have to be patient with yourself and I wasn’t at the time. I was getting frustrated, it was hard, I was tired. So I took a break. I still auditioned for Chicago Opera Theater and I got into that program and that was great. When I left I auditioned for the University of Michigan and got in, and I had Shirley Verrett as my teacher. And she changed my life. She helped me with my confidence. I’m not a shy person, but getting out on stage is so scary and vulnerable.         

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