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Latonia Moore and J'Nai Bridges at San Diego Opera elicit tears

I needed this

Mezzo-Soprano J'Nai Bridges - Image by S. Richards Photography
Mezzo-Soprano J'Nai Bridges

Opera is the single greatest art form that you can possibly experience in this world that we live in. Nothing hits harder when it is done well. When done at an elite level, the portals align and transcendence follows. There is one catch. It isn’t free. The bar to participate is high. Opera is not an Instagram Reel or one of those Ticky Tockies.


As an audience member, you need to have taken the time to cultivate a working knowledge of opera and operatic singing to get the full experience. You need to know how the human voice is put together and what it takes to produce what soprano Latonia Moore and mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges delivered at the Balboa Theatre on Wednesday, October 25. The concert marked the beginning of the 2023-2024 San Diego Opera Season.


If you haven’t done your homework then it is still possible to have a great experience when the singing is great. However, if you have put in the effort to imbue yourself in the great traditions of opera then a night like Wednesday becomes an existential affirmation of the omnipotence of The Muse when she is summoned, in all her glory, by the stentorian tones of operatic glory.


Suffice it to say, I enjoyed the concert. Now for some specifics.


For starters, I must mention the conductor of the concert, Bruce Stasyna. Not only did maestro Stasyna conduct, near the end of the concert he sat down at an upright piano and accompanied first Moore and then Bridges. One of the pieces was a piano reduction of a 21st-century orchestral score. That achievement needs to be acknowledged.


The concert started off with some Mozart by the orchestra and then an aria from Don Giovanni sung by Moore. Following that was J’Nai Bridges singing “Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix” from Samson et Dalila by Camille Saint-Saëns. Bridges’ performance brought a tear to my eye. 

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It wasn’t just the way she performed the piece, it was her ability to sing the aria as it should be sung. The money notes in this piece are the low notes and they were lush and full. I was moved by the dedication and respect it takes for a singer to develop those notes. Too often I have heard singers simply disappear on the bottom—singers at The Met, at LA Opera, at San Francisco Opera, and yes, at San Diego Opera. It was not so on this evening.


Video:

J'Nai Bridges in 2021

Metropolitan Opera Star J'Nai Bridges aria from Saint Saens' opera <em>Samson and Delilah</em> Central Synagogue, March 24th, 2021. Piano: Laetitia Ruccolo

Metropolitan Opera Star J'Nai Bridges aria from Saint Saens' opera Samson and Delilah Central Synagogue, March 24th, 2021. Piano: Laetitia Ruccolo


Video:

J'Nai Bridges: Samson and Delilah


The other teary-eyed moment of the evening was Moore singing “L’atra notte in fondo al mare” from Mephistofele by Arrigo Boito. The sheer operatic style is what moved me most. There is a difference between singing an aria and singing it operatically. I prefer the full operatic send and that’s what Moore gave us, her singing punctuated with the muffled sobs of a grieving and devastated mother.

Video:

Latonia Moore: Mefistofele


A friend of mine, in the audience, summed the night up well. He simply said, “I needed this.” As did I. As did I.




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Mezzo-Soprano J'Nai Bridges - Image by S. Richards Photography
Mezzo-Soprano J'Nai Bridges

Opera is the single greatest art form that you can possibly experience in this world that we live in. Nothing hits harder when it is done well. When done at an elite level, the portals align and transcendence follows. There is one catch. It isn’t free. The bar to participate is high. Opera is not an Instagram Reel or one of those Ticky Tockies.


As an audience member, you need to have taken the time to cultivate a working knowledge of opera and operatic singing to get the full experience. You need to know how the human voice is put together and what it takes to produce what soprano Latonia Moore and mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges delivered at the Balboa Theatre on Wednesday, October 25. The concert marked the beginning of the 2023-2024 San Diego Opera Season.


If you haven’t done your homework then it is still possible to have a great experience when the singing is great. However, if you have put in the effort to imbue yourself in the great traditions of opera then a night like Wednesday becomes an existential affirmation of the omnipotence of The Muse when she is summoned, in all her glory, by the stentorian tones of operatic glory.


Suffice it to say, I enjoyed the concert. Now for some specifics.


For starters, I must mention the conductor of the concert, Bruce Stasyna. Not only did maestro Stasyna conduct, near the end of the concert he sat down at an upright piano and accompanied first Moore and then Bridges. One of the pieces was a piano reduction of a 21st-century orchestral score. That achievement needs to be acknowledged.


The concert started off with some Mozart by the orchestra and then an aria from Don Giovanni sung by Moore. Following that was J’Nai Bridges singing “Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix” from Samson et Dalila by Camille Saint-Saëns. Bridges’ performance brought a tear to my eye. 

Sponsored
Sponsored


It wasn’t just the way she performed the piece, it was her ability to sing the aria as it should be sung. The money notes in this piece are the low notes and they were lush and full. I was moved by the dedication and respect it takes for a singer to develop those notes. Too often I have heard singers simply disappear on the bottom—singers at The Met, at LA Opera, at San Francisco Opera, and yes, at San Diego Opera. It was not so on this evening.


Video:

J'Nai Bridges in 2021

Metropolitan Opera Star J'Nai Bridges aria from Saint Saens' opera <em>Samson and Delilah</em> Central Synagogue, March 24th, 2021. Piano: Laetitia Ruccolo

Metropolitan Opera Star J'Nai Bridges aria from Saint Saens' opera Samson and Delilah Central Synagogue, March 24th, 2021. Piano: Laetitia Ruccolo


Video:

J'Nai Bridges: Samson and Delilah


The other teary-eyed moment of the evening was Moore singing “L’atra notte in fondo al mare” from Mephistofele by Arrigo Boito. The sheer operatic style is what moved me most. There is a difference between singing an aria and singing it operatically. I prefer the full operatic send and that’s what Moore gave us, her singing punctuated with the muffled sobs of a grieving and devastated mother.

Video:

Latonia Moore: Mefistofele


A friend of mine, in the audience, summed the night up well. He simply said, “I needed this.” As did I. As did I.




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