J’Nai Bridges Playing Carmen at the San Francisco Opera


(E) I heard a few weeks ago on KDFC, how J’Nai Bridges forever prepared herself to play the role of Carmen in Bizet’s opera:

“Bridges made the decision to follow her musical dreams after having a parallel interest and talent in playing basketball during high school, which she says she’s been reminded of, playing Carmen. “By the end of the opera I feel like I’ve just played a basketball game, and I know what that feels like… I like to actually call this role the Beyoncé of opera because I’m just doing everything. I’m singing, I’m dancing, I’m falling. It’s really an athletic role.” It’s also a dream role and one that generally takes time to build up to. “It’s been something that I’ve been working on probably for ten years, actually. Because it’s not a role that you can just get out of bed and sing. It takes some… some living with. And actually, just some life experience,” Bridges says. “Certainly the fourth act is probably vocally the most demanding, so I’ve been working on that for a long time, but I also started looking at that later. The Habanera was the first thing that I looked at. I learned it for parties and auditions, It’s just so fun. It’s actually not as easy as it sounds, but I’ve gone through a lot of different journeys with that aria, and now it… It just feels so organic.” This is the third role she’s had with SF Opera – she sang in Andrea Chénier in 2016, and John Adams’ Girls of the Golden West in 2017; this Carmen is her role debut on a big stage. “I’m so happy to be debuting the role here in San Francisco, where I do feel like this house is kind of my home.”

And yesterday night, I had finally the great pleasure to see and listen to Ms. Bridges in the latest production of Carmen from the San Francisco Opera.

The orchestra welcomed and guided the audience before the beginning of the performance into the spirit of Carmen by playing the Overture under the direction of Maestro James Gaffigan. Although, I have to say that I miss the passion and the extravagance of Mastro Nicola Luisotti.

Ms. Bridges was definitely igniting live passion on the stage through her singing, persona, emotions, and strong presence!

And, I did also enjoy particularly the performance of Anita Hartig in Micaëla.

As it is the case for most of the performances of the San Francisco Opera, the singing, the cast, the costumes, and the music were a blast.

Escamillo sang “Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre” riding a horse on the stage!

One of my biggest surprises was that every performer spoke extremely well in French, and in particular Matthew Polenzani.

My first “bemol” to the performance – I enjoyed more the staging of Carmen in the previous production of the San Francisco Opera in 2011 that I attended – which looks more like a typical arène from the south of France or Spain.




Francesca Zambello led the production, which staging has been performed by the Opera Australia, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and the Norwegian National Opera.

My second “bemol” to the performance – I personally found the production of Ms. Zambello sometime unnecessary too sensual.


And for your pleasure…

Moving Moment featuring J’Nai Bridges singing the Habanera…


Moving Moment featuring Matthew Polenzani as Don José…



Moving Moment featuring Kyle Ketelsen as Escamillo…



The CAST of San Francisco Carmen 2019 production

  • Carmen: J’Nai Bridges
  • Don José: Matthew Polenzani
  • Micaëla: Anita Hartig
  • Escamillo: Kyle Ketelsen
  • Zuniga: David Leigh
  • El Dancairo: Christopher Oglesby
  • El Remendado: Zhengyi Bai
  • Moralès: SeokJong Baek
  • Frasquita: Natalie Image
  • Mercédès: Ashley Dixon
  • Manuelita: Blanche Hampton
  • Lillas Pastia: Valentina Simi

The CREATIVE of San Francisco Opera 2019 production

  • Conductor: James Gaffigan
  • Conductor: Michelle Merrill
  • Production: Francesca Zambello
  • Associate Stage Director & Movement Director: Denni Sayers
  • Production Designer: Tanya McCallin
  • Original Lighting Designer: Paule Constable
  • Revival Lighting Designer: Justin A. Partier
  • Fight Director: Dave Maier
  • Chorus Director: Ian Robertson


And one more thing for your pleasure…Clara-Jumi Kang (violin) and Yeol Eum Son (piano) playing Carmen Fantasy from Pablo de Sarasate:



Note: The picture above is Carmen from the San Francisco Opera.

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Categories: Arts