Directed by Christine Turner.
In J’Nai Bridges Unamplified the critically acclaimed and Grammy–winning opera singer J’Nai Bridges takes the stage in A Knee on the Neck, a choral tribute to George Floyd.
Tony Award–winning actress and singer Audra McDonald hosted the broadcast premiere of American Masters: In the Making on Friday, March 24, 2023 on PBS. The full episode is available to stream above as well as on pbs.org/americanmasters and the PBS App.
American mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges, known for her “plush-voiced mezzo-soprano” (The New York Times), and “calmly commanding stage presence” (The New Yorker) has been heralded as “a rising star” (Los Angeles Times), gracing the world’s top opera and concert stages. Ms. Bridges' 2022 summer season begins in June at the Los Angeles Philharmonic performing Lieberson’s Neruda Songs with Gustavo Dudamel as part of the Power to the People! festival, then goes to San Francisco Symphony to sing Jocasta in the Peter Sellars production of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, then she appears in a solo recital at Caramoor. In July 2022 Ms. Bridges makes her Arena di Verona debut in Carmen in the title role. Engagements for the 2022-23 season include several more performances as Carmen in Amsterdam, Canada, and Chicago, and also a momentous debut with Seattle Opera as Delilah in Samson & Delilah, marking her homecoming as a native of Washington.
Ms. Bridges’ 2021 – 2022 season highlights include numerous world premiere engagements as a guest artist in The Kennedy Center’s 50th Anniversary Season. Ms. Bridges’ time in Washington D.C. also included performances with The National Philharmonic in the world premiere of Adolphus Hailstork’s A Knee on the Neck, and Mozart’s Requiem, and her Verdi Requiem debut with the Cathedral Choral Society. She also appeared with the Amarillo Symphony as a guest artist in a world premiere piece by Chris Rogerson entitled Sacred Earth, and she gave a solo recital at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton.
In the midst of the worldwide pandemic, she emerged as a leading figure in classical music’s shift toward conversations of inclusion and racial justice in the performing arts. In 2022 she was announced as one of the Kennedy Center’s NEXT50 cultural leaders. Bridges led a highly successful panel on race and inequality in opera with the Los Angeles Opera that drew international acclaim for being a “conversation of striking scope and candor” (The New York Times). In early 2021, Ms. Bridges was featured in the Converse shoe brand’s All Stars Campaign for its Breaking Down Barriers collection. Bridges also performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel for two episodes of the digital SOUND/STAGE series, and as part of the Global Citizen movement’s Global Goal campaign, a program which also included Coldplay, Shakira, Usher and more. The pandemic also forced the cancellation of Ms. Bridges’ numerous debuts during the 2020-2021 season including the title role of Carmen at The Metropolitan Opera. Bridges’ 2019 – 2020 season included her highly-acclaimed debut at The Metropolitan Opera as Nefertiti in a sold-out run of Philip Glass’ opera Akhnaten, as well as a house and role debut with Washington National Opera as Dalila in Samson et Dalila.
Other recent highlights include the 2022 Grammy® Award-winning Metropolitan Opera production of Akhnaten and 2021 Grammy® Award-winning recording of Richard Danielpour’s oratorio The Passion of Yeshua with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, performing at the National Library of Congress to honor legendary fashion designer Diane von Furstenburg as she received the 2022 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership Award, her sold-out Carnegie Hall Recital debut, her role debut of Kasturbai in Satyagraha at LA Opera, and her debuts at Dutch National Opera and the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. Ms. Bridges also created the role of Josefa Segovia in the world premiere of John Adams’ Girls of the Golden West at San Francisco Opera, and performed in the world premiere of Bel Canto at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, an opera by Jimmy Lopez based on the novel by Ann Patchett.
Bridges is a recipient of the prestigious 2018 Sphinx Medal of Excellence Award, a 2016 Richard Tucker Career Grant, first prize winner at the 2016 Francisco Viñas International Competition, first prize winner at 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 from The Shoshana Foundation, and the winner of the 2008 Leontyne Price Foundation Competition. J’Nai completed a three-year residency with the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, represented the United States at the prestigious BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition and was a Young Artist at the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, New York.
A native of Tacoma, 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.
For the broadcast of American Masters: In the Making, Executive Producers are Leslie Fields-Cruz, Denise Greene, Michael Kantor, Monika Navarro, Stanley Nelson and Marcia Smith. The broadcast of In the Making is a production of Firelight Media, in association with American Masters Pictures and Black Public Media. Support for J’Nai Bridges Unamplified is provided by Brown Girls Doc Mafia and Future of Film is Female. A production of Firelight Media and Peralta Pictures, in association with American Masters Pictures and Black Public Media.
Original production funding for In the Making is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts.
American Masters series production funding is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The Rosalind P. Walter Foundation, AARP, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Judith and Burton Resnick, Koo and Patricia Yuen, Seton J. Melvin, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, Thea Petschek Iervolino Foundation, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Vital Projects Fund, The Marc Haas Foundation, Ellen and James S. Marcus, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation and public television viewers.