Artist of the Week: Jennifer Johnson Cano

American Mezzo-Soprano Brings Virginia Woolf to Life in ‘The Hours’

By Francisco Salazar

This weekend Kevin Puts and Grieg Pierce’s “The Hours” will make its world premiere. The work is one of the most anticipated operas of the year as it is based on the popular Michael Cunningham novel, which was later turned into an Oscar-winning film. Now three divas will get the chance to shine in three iconic roles with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Jennifer Johnson Cano is one of those three divas, bringing the role of Virginia Woolf to life. As she noted in a recent interview with OperaWire, Cano has been an admirer of the book for a long time and said, “‘The Hours’ has been a bit of an obsession of mine since college.  I fell in love with Michael Cunningham’s novel and I share equal love for the film, both of which ignited a passion for learning more about Virginia Woolf as a person and her expanse of work.”

Virginia Woolf was an English writer who is considered one of the most important modernist 20th-century authors and a pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device. In her preparation for the role, Cano noted that she has been rereading “Mrs. Dalloway” as well as “The Hours” and listening to literary podcasts about Virginia, and reading article upon article.

Over the years Cano has diversified her repertoire and has performed premieres of works like “The Handmaid’s Tale” and standard repertoire pieces from Verdi, Bartok, Bizet, and Ravel, among others. For audiences not in Philadelphia for the world premiere, Cano will star in the world premiere of Gregory Spears’ “Castor and Patience” and will perform with The Cleveland Orchestra in a series of concerts of Verdi’s “Otello.”

“The Hours” will also return to the Metropolitan Opera for the first staged production next season.


Cano has a diverse discography such as “Unaffected: Live from The Savannah Voice Festival” and Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 from Pittsburgh Symphony. She is also featured on the Metropolitan Opera’s HD recordings of “Otello,” “Falstaff,” and The Ring Cycle, among others.

Here she is performing from “La Clemenza di Tito.”

And here is a selection from a Rachmaninoff song.



Artist of the Week