Artist of the Week: Janai Brugger
American Soprano World Premieres ‘Intelligence’ at Houston Grand OperaBy Francisco Salazar
(Credit: Marty Sohl)
This week, Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s latest work “Intelligence” will make its world premiere at the Houston Grand Opera (HGO). Moreover, this production represents an extension of the long-standing relationship between Heggie and HGO, as the company has also showcased the first performances of “End of the Affair (2004),” “Three Decembers (2008),” “Pieces of 9/11 (2011),” “It’s a Wonderful Life (2016),” and “Songs for Murdered Sisters (2022).” With his new work, the HGO has aligned an all-star cast that is headlined by Janai Brugger.
With “Intelligence,” Brugger is not only creating a role but is also making her highly anticipated HGO debut. Over the past seasons, Brugger has received acclaim for her performances at the Metropolitan Opera, LA Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and Dutch National Opera. The soprano is also no stranger to creating new works as she sang a specially-written requiem composed by Laura Karpman for an episode of HBO’s renowned “Lovecraft Country.”
Regarding her upcoming role as Mary Jane Bower in the opera, Brugger said, “It has been a tremendous honor and privilege to be a part of this incredible production and storytelling of ‘Intelligence.’ Creating the role of Mary Jane Bowser has been empowering and I feel like I’ve gotten to know so much about her even with little out there on record about her life after the Civil War. She left a huge impact and her story is truly incredible.”
She added, “It has always been a dream of mine to work with Jake Heggie as I’ve been a fan of his and admired his work for many years now. He’s such a brilliant artist and human being and truly knows how to write for the voice and create music that will leave you in awe. I’ve learned a great deal from him in such a short amount of time and pray that we get to collaborate again in the near future!”
For those not in Houston for the world premiere, the soprano is set to return to the Metropolitan Opera for “The Magic Flute” and to the Canadian Opera Company for “Medea.”
To discover more about Brugger, you can hear the soprano on the “Lovecraft Country” soundtrack and on the album “Awake and Dream.” She is also on a recording of Gluck’s “Orfeo” with the Atlanta Symphony.
Here she is in clips from “The Magic Flute” and “Medea.”