Great Artists Series '23: J'Nai Bridges, mezzo-soprano and Mark Markham, piano
Edison Box Office: 314-935-6543
$35-40 general admission
$32-37 Wash U faculty/staff
Selected songs by Johannes Brahms (1833 - 1897)
Dein blaues Auges, Op. 59, No. 8 (1870-1873)
Die Mainacht, Op. 43, No. 2 (1857–1864)
Von ewiger Liebe, Op. 43, No. 1 (1857)
Shéhérazade (1903) by Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937)
La flûte enchantée
Siete canciones populares españolas (1914-15) by Manuel de Falla (1876 – 1946)
El paño moruno
Cantata for voice and piano (1964) by John Carter (1932 – 1981)
“Her voice is a rich blanket of plush sound, capacious and flexible, with a panoply of colors and weights” - OPERA NEWS
"A luscious voice... opulent and seamless" - The New York Times
American mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges, known for her “plush-voiced mezzo-soprano” (The New York Times), and “calmly commanding stage presence” (The New Yorker) has been heralded as “a rising star” (Los Angeles Times), gracing the world’s top opera and concert stages.
Ms. Bridges’ 2021 – 2022 season is highlighted by her participation in numerous world premiere engagements, and as a guest artist at The Kennedy Center’s 50th Anniversary Season. The first Kennedy Center performance is with the all Black and Latinx Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, followed by Written in Stone, a Washington National Opera program of new music including the world premiere of a piece written for her by Carlos Simon. Ms. Bridges’ time in Washington D.C. continues as a soloist with The National Philharmonic in the world premiere of Adolphus Hailstork’s A Knee on the Neck, and Mozart’s Requiem. She continues her collaboration with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, giving a recital as part of their Power to the People! festival. She also appears with Amarillo Symphony as a guest artist in a world premiere piece by Chris Rogerson entitled Sacred Earth, sing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for Houston Symphony’s season finale performance, and will give a solo recital at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, NJ. Operatic engagements include the title role in Carmen with Palm Beach Opera, and Jocasta in Oedipus Rex with the San Francisco Symphony.
In the midst of the worldwide pandemic, she emerged as a leading figure in classical music’s shift toward conversations of inclusion and racial justice in the performing arts. Bridges led a highly successful panel on race and inequality in opera with the Los Angeles Opera that drew international acclaim for being a “conversation of striking scope and candor” (The New York Times). In early 2021, Ms. Bridges was featured in the Converse shoe brand’s All Stars Campaign for its Breaking Down Barriers collection. Bridges also performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel for two episodes of the digital SOUND/STAGE series, and as part of the Global Citizen movement’s Global Goal campaign, a program which also included Coldplay, Shakira, Usher and more. The pandemic also forced the cancellation of Ms. Bridges’ numerous debuts during the 2020-2021 season including the title role of Carmen at The Metropolitan Opera and Canadian Opera Company. Bridges’ 2019 – 2020 season included her highly-acclaimed debut at The Metropolitan Opera as Nefertiti in a sold-out run of Philip Glass’ opera Akhnaten, as well as a house and role debut with Washington National Opera as Dalila in Samson et Dalila.
Other recent highlights include the 2021 Grammy AwardTM-winning recording of Richard Danielpour’s oratorio The Passion of Yeshua with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, her sold-out Carnegie Hall Recital debut, her role debut of Kasturbai in Satyagraha at LA Opera, and her debuts at Dutch National Opera and the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. Ms. Bridges also created the role of Josefa Segovia in the world premiere of John Adams’ Girls of the Golden West at San Francisco Opera, and performed in the world premiere of Bel Canto at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, an opera by Jimmy Lopez based on the novel by Ann Patchett.
Bridges is a recipient of the prestigious 2018 Sphinx Medal of Excellence Award, a 2016 Richard Tucker Career Grant, first prize winner at the 2016 Francisco Viñas International Competition, first prize winner at the 2015 Gerda Lissner Competition, a recipient of the 2013 Sullivan Foundation Award, a 2012 Marian Anderson award winner, the recipient of the 2011 Sara Tucker Study Grant, the recipient of the 2009 Richard F. Gold Grant from The Shoshana Foundation, and the winner of the 2008 Leontyne Price Foundation Competition. J’Nai completed a three-year residency with the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, represented the United States at the prestigious BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, and was a Young Artist at the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, New York.
A native of Tacoma, Washington, she earned her Master of Music degree from Curtis Institute of Music, and her Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance from the Manhattan School of Music.
Pianist Mark Markham is equally at home as a soloist, a collaborator with great singers, a chamber musician, a jazz pianist, or a vocal coach, and his interpretations have been praised by the public and press alike. His international career encompasses performances in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, while the artistry of his playing has been described as “brilliant,” “exquisitely detailed,” and “in full service to the music.”
This season Mr. Markham gives solo concerts in Lincoln, NE and in Honolulu for the Alliance Française. He will also give performances with tenor Limmie Pulliam in Lincoln, Harrisburg PA, and Jonesboro, AK, as well a recital at the 92nd Street Y in New York City with mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges.
In the 2021-22 season Markham played a solo recital, “Dances and Improvisations” and a recital with soprano Leah Crocetto for the Lexington Bach Festival. In October he opened Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra’s season with the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3 and then headed to Honolulu for a solo recital and a vocal recital for the Alliance Française of Hawaii. In November he gave a special solo performance in Dallas for a gala evening honoring the Chamber of Commerce of the European Union, a benefit concert for his foundation Singing in Sicily, and then recitals with Limmie Pulliam in Kingsport, TN and Baltimore, MD.
His one live performance in the 2020-21 season was a solo recital in Harrisburg on the Market Square Concert Series. The 2019-20 season was without doubt one of the greatest challenges for performing artists. For Markham the first half of the season was unexpectedly quiet, but how quickly plans can change. At the end of September, his friend and recital partner of twenty years, the great soprano Jessye Norman passed away suddenly. Her family asked him to perform at the funeral in Augusta, GA and then again at her memorial service at the Metropolitan Opera House with soprano Lisa Davidsen and bass-baritone Eric Owens. His next performance was a return engagement in Kansas City for the Lyric Opera in early February. “In the Mood for Love,” a cabaret show created by Markham for the young artist program, was a wonderful success. In mid-February he went out to Oberlin College to play a recital with tenor Limmie Pulliam and give a master class for the vocal students.
Mr Markham began the 2018-19 season with a solo recital at the Lexington Bach Festival - “Bach and the Art of Improvisation,” followed by a recital with mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. At Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall he gave recitals with soprano Leah Crocetto and mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges. Also with Ms. Crocetto he performed at Lafayette College and in Raleigh NC for the North Carolina Opera. With Ms. Bridges he also performed on the Spire Series in Baltimore. In February he was pianist and music director for a program celebrating the music of Kurt Weill and George Gershwin entitled “Mack the Knife is the Man I Love” at the Kansas City Opera and in March he returned to New York City for a solo recital - “My Songs without Words”- on the Sacred Music in a Sacred Space series. In May he gave a master class on the Art Song Preservation Society series in New York City and in June gave a solo recital in Honolulu for the Alliance Française of Hawaii. He finished the season with the third edition of his vocal workshop Singing in Sicily.
As the recipient of the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award from The Johns Hopkins University, he opened the 2017-18 season with a solo recital at the Peabody Conservatory, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Peabody-Hopkins union. Other performances included Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 3 with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony, a vocal recital with soprano Leah Crocetto and baritone Zachary Nelson at the Morgan Library in New York City, Ravel’s Concerto in G with the Harrisburg Symphony, plus a solo recital on the Market Square Concert Series in Harrisburg and a performance of Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 3 with Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra. The summer of 2017 marked the first season of his vocal workshop, Singing in Sicily - a non-profit intensive training program for talented young singers from around the world.
Born in Pensacola, Florida, Mr. Markham made his debut in 1980 as soloist with the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra and in the same year was invited by the renowned Boris Goldovsky to coach opera at the Oglebay Institute. His teachers at the time, Robert and Trudie Sherwood, were supportive of all his musical endeavors from solo repertoire, vocal accompanying, and chamber music to Broadway, and jazz. During the next ten years as a student at the Peabody Conservatory, where he received B.M., M.M., and D.M.A. degrees in piano performance, this same support for the diversity of his musical gifts came from Ann Schein, a pupil of Mieczyslaw Munz and the great Artur Rubinstein. While under her tutelage he won several competitions including the Munz Competition and the First Prize and the Contemporary Music Prize at the 1988 Frinna Awerbuch International Piano Competition in New York City. While still a student at the conservatory Mr. Markham toured with soprano Phyllis Bryn-Julson, a collaboration that resulted in critically acclaimed recordings of works by Messiaen, Carter, Dallapiccola, Schuller, and Wuorinen. In addition, he has toured the US, Europe, and Asia with countertenor Derek Lee Ragin and has given recitals with Gordon Hawkins, Theodora Hanslowe, Christine Brewer, Isabel Leonard, Vinson Cole, Jennifer O’Loughlin, and Limmie Pulliam.
Starting in 1995 for twenty seasons, Mr. Markham was the recital partner of Jessye Norman, giving nearly 300 performances in thirty countries, including recitals in Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Philharmonie in Berlin, La Palau de la Musica in Barcelona, London’s Royal Festival Hall, the Musikverein in Vienna, the Salzburg Festival, Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo, Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv, the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus in Greece, the Baalbek Festival at the Temple of Bacchus in Lebanon, and at the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize presentation to President Jimmy Carter in Oslo.
Much appreciated by the public for his improvisational skills, Mr. Markham performed at the Expo 2000 in Hannover, Germany, where he collaborated with Sir Peter Ustinov for a live television broadcast throughout the country. His gift for jazz has been recognized in the Sacred Ellington, a program created by Ms. Norman in which he served as pianist and musical director, which toured Europe, the Middle East and finished in 2009 with a performance at the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York City. His recording with Jessye Norman of “Roots: My Life, My Song” was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Mr. Markham is a former faculty member of the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, the Norfolk Festival of Yale University, and the Britten-Pears School of the Aldeburgh Festival in England. He has given master classes throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia and has been a guest lecturer for The Johns Hopkins University and the Metropolitan Opera Guild.
**All programs subject to change
Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity
Additional financial assistance for this project has been provided by the The Missouri Arts Council and the Robert H. Orchard Fund