Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

10 Questions for...
Janai Brugger

May 03, 2012

Janai Brugger
How do you freshen up Puccini’s La Bohème? Well one way is to bring in new fresh faces in the starring roles—a quantity that Los Angeles Opera has in no short supply these days. And one of the freshest and most exciting of those faces will be appearing as Musetta when LAO’s revival kicks of next weekend on the 12th—soprano Janai Brugger. She’s one of the current Domingo-Thornton Young Artists with the company whose profile got a big boost recently when she was a winner at this year’s Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in the spring. This should serve as notice to everyone involved with Placido Domingo’s Operalia competition where she’ll also compete later this year. A Chicago native, she studied in Michigan under Shirley Verrett among others and has been busy booking upcoming appearances around the country in a number of roles from Mozart to Gounod. So even if you don’t recognize her name now, you’ll have no trouble remembering it after you hear her sing. Best of all, she was kind enough to take some time to answer the OWA 10 Questions, prior to her appearances next week.
  1. What role would you most like to perform but haven't yet?
    I would love to sing the role of Mimi in the near future.
  2. What role would you never want to perform even if you could?
    The Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute. She scares me.
  3. You’ve already worked with some of the greatest artists in the opera world at this point in your career. Whom have you not had a chance to work with yet, that you would most like to?
    That list is endless. I would love to be onstage with Anna Netrebko, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Renée Fleming. As for conductors, I would love to sing for Riccardo Muti, Zubin Mehta, James Levine, Gustavo Dudamel…
  1. Your iPod is destroyed by a vengeful mezzo. Which lost tracks would you miss most?
    Definitely my Motown music!
  2. You’ve sung many roles already in your time with L.A. Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artists Program and starting May 10 will be performing Musetta, one of opera’s biggest flirts, in the company’s revival of La Bohème. What’s the biggest challenge for you in this part?
    The biggest challenge is to find all of the layers to Musetta and to reveal as much of them as possible within the arc of the opera, which isn’t very long. There is so much more to her than this flirty personality. She’s complicated, and that makes her fun and challenging to play.
  3. You were one of the winners at this year’s Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. How has winning this audition, known for its many now-legendary previous winners, changed things for you?
    The amount of exposure that I've received has been a huge change for me. I have had some amazing opportunities open up for me due to this competition. I'm looking forward to the future and getting my career started.
  4. What music most inspired you to sing opera?
    I heard Kathleen Battle sing a recital when I was nine years old. There was something about her presence, her amazing gown and, of course, her incredible voice that just drew me in to her. I can't remember the songs she sang, but I knew, after hearing her and from the effect that she had on me, that I wanted to be able to do that one day and make people feel that way with my own voice.

Janai Brugger as Juliette Photo: LAO

  1. Which other vocalists have served as the biggest inspiration for you?
    Shirley Verrett, Leontyne Price, Renée Fleming, Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and Joan Sutherland.
  2. With which of your operatic roles do you have the most in common?
    It would probably be Juliette. She has so many characteristics that I identify with.
  3. What’s your current obsession?
    “Downton Abbey,” an amazing show!


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