J’Nai Bridges is a professional opera singer (a mezzo-soprano, to be exact). When she’s not traveling the world performing on the globe’s top stages, she lives in New York City, where she’ll make her Metropolitan Opera debut this November, as Nefertiti in Akhnaten.
What I Do in a Day: J’Nai Bridges, Professional Opera Singer
My alarm goes off…no earlier than 8:00 a.m., unless I’m flying an early morning flight for a singing engagement (which happens quite often). Depending on my rehearsal schedule, my alarm goes off between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. Opera singers need lots of rest and hydration, being that our bodies are our instruments. Very similar to athletes.
My morning…starts with prayer and meditation. The life of an opera singer can be quite unpredictable, so this moment with myself and God helps to ground and prepare me for whatever is to come. Next, I drink a big glass of celery juice. It definitely was an acquired taste, but I’m a big believer in its power after seeing and feeling the healing results, like better concentration, more energy, better flushing toxins and the list goes on. Then take a nice steamy shower while humming and slowly warming my voice up. Nothing like good ol’ steam to get the vocal chords lubricated and energized for singing. Breakfast depends on how I’m feeling, and usually cycles between steel cut oats, granola with whole fat yogurt or some kind of egg goodness. Protein is my friend. Either I’m off to rehearsal for the day, or the gym if I’m not needed for rehearsal.
For lunch…I usually only have an hour in between rehearsals, so I’ll go somewhere close to the theater usually with colleagues. My lunch usually consists of some type of vegetables with protein or a sandwich with a pick-me-up, aka piece of chocolate or a hot sweet beverage like a chai tea latte.
In the afternoon…it’s usually another two to three hours of opera staging and singing, if I’m called for rehearsal. If I’m not called, I might go window shopping or actual shopping. I’m also prepared to go to the gym if I wasn’t able to make it in the morning. My schedule changes every day, and I typically don’t receive my schedule until 5 p.m. the day before, so my gym bag is always with me. If I have a free day, I’ll often explore the city I’m in by discovering different neighborhoods, going to a museum or meeting up with people I know living there.
I finish work…usually not too late, depending on rehearsal schedule. If it’s not too long of a day, I’ll schedule a voice lesson or a vocal coaching session to learn music and keep my technique in good shape. I prefer to go to the gym in the evening if my schedule allows. After the gym, I’ll either meet with friends for dinner or cook dinner myself, check emails and tune into my social media accounts. Netflix happens at some point, although I’ve really tried to limit that, and incorporate reading into my night life.
I got the job…and was equal parts excited and relieved. As a freelance opera singer, it can become stressful not knowing if an engagement is on the horizon. I’m grateful to be at a point where I have a wonderful manager. With his help and my hard work, I’ve received incredible opportunities around the world. Many years of singing competitions, auditioning and getting rejected has led me to where I am today. Through it all I’ve always been encouraged by family, friends and people in important positions to keep going and to not give up. That, along with sweat, tears and lots of money spent, has played into my role as an opera singer. Glamorous and not so glamorous all at once.
The best part of my job…is hard to pinpoint. My job as an opera singer is multi-faceted, and there are many enjoyable moments. Traveling the world for a living is something that I never imagined I would do. Experiencing different cultures has broadened my mind and love for people, not to mention my food palate. Doing what I love for a living is something that I don’t take for granted, and I give thanks every day for it. It doesn’t feel like a job and I believe everyone should be afforded this way of life. The absolute best part of my job is witnessing how much joy my gift brings to people. I have seen people cry, laugh, think and change for the better simply because my voice evokes emotion in them. This is the greatest gift of all.
The worst part of my job…is not sleeping in my own super-comfortable bed every night. I spend very little time at home and I honestly miss the comfort of my own space. If I could ship my bed to every engagement, I would have absolutely zero complaints!
My most memorable moment...was when I recently made my debut singing Carmen at San Francisco Opera. It was the highlight of my career so far, particularly because I had more than 200 friends and family attend a single performance. The support from my “village” is something that I hold very close to my heart.