In the 2016-17 season, J’Nai will make debuts at San Francisco Opera and Bavarian State Opera as Bersi in Andrea Chenier, at Los Angeles Opera as Nefertiti in Akhnaten, and at Vancouver Opera as Sister Helen Prejean in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking. She will additionally be featured as a soloist with the Marilyn Horne Song Celebration at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall; at the Festival de Torroella de Montgrí, with the NDR Symphony Orchestra in its inaugural week at the Elbphilharmonie; and in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at both the Farewell to Christoph Eschenbach concert with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, and with The Philadelphia Orchestra at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center; and in Mahler’s Second Symphony with the Louisville Orchestra and with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.
J’Nai’s recent performances have included a return to Lyric Opera of Chicago to sing the role of Carmen in the world premiere of Bel Canto, an opera by Jimmy Lopez, based on the novel by Ann Patchett, the title role in The Rape of Lucretia at Wolf Trap Opera, Suzuki in Madama Butterfly with San Diego Opera and Wolf Trap Opera, the title role of Carmen with Finger Lakes Opera, and Adalgisa in Norma with Knoxville Opera.
Her many concert engagements have spanned Ravel’s Chansons Medécasses with Yo-Yo Ma and members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; the mezzo-soprano solo in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Gustavo Dudamel and the L.A. Philharmonic, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela in Berkeley, and in Caracas, Venezuela; as a featured soloist in the GRAMMY Salute to Music Legends tribute concert at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles; Ravel’s Shéhérezade with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg; selections from La clemenza di Tito, and works by Mozart and Schubert with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago; the role of Mademoiselle Dangeville in Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur with the Opera Orchestra of New York; the mezzo-soprano solo in Mahler’s Second Symphony with the Lexington Philharmonic; chamber works with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Art Institute of Chicago; and other soloist engagements with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago, the Oregon Symphony, and the New Jersey Symphonic Orchestra, as part of WFMT 98.7’s recital series, and with the Conservatory Project at The Kennedy Center.
In 2015, J’Nai completed a three-year residency with the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Highlights of her tenure at the Lyric include Inez in Il trovatore under the baton of Asher Fisch, Vlasta in Mieczysław Weinberg’s The Passenger conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, Flora in La traviata, and two student matinee performances of Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia.
J’Nai demonstrated her versatile artistry providing vocals for the historic DVD documentary Bishop Richard Allen: Apostle of Freedom as well as at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a member of Chorale Le Chateau.
As a young artist with the Glimmerglass Festival, J’Nai covered Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, and Mrs. Jenks in Copland’s The Tender Land, and sang the title role in Carmen. Additional engagements while a resident artist at the Ryan Center include the title role in Act IV of Carmen for Stars of Lyric Opera, Dorabella in Act I of Così fan tutte for the Grant Park Music Festival, and appearances as a Flower maiden in Parsifal, the Second Wood Nymph in Rusalka, and the Second Maid in Elektra with Chicago Lyric Opera.
In 2015, J’Nai represented the United States at the prestigious BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. Additionally, she was the recipient of a 2016 Richard Tucker Career Grant, a first prize winner at the 2016 Francisco Vinjas International Competition, a 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 as the singer with a promising operatic career, and the winner of the 2008 Leontyne Price Foundation Competition.
A native of Lakewood, Washington, J’Nai earned her Master of Music degree from the Curtis Institute of Music, where her operatic credits included Carolina Kirchstetten in Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers, Idamante in Idomeneo, Carmen in Le tragedie de Carmen, Teresa in La Sonnambula, Iras in Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra and Baba the Turk in The Rake’s Progress. While at Curtis, J’Nai also appeared as the Madrigalist in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut with the Opera Company of Philadelphia.
She received her Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance from the Manhattan School of Music, where she appeared in the U.S. premiere of Xenakis’s Oresteia, conducted by Steven Osgood, and as Polly in Britten’s The Beggar’s Opera to rave reviews from The New York Times.