St. Hugh's Presents Soprano Janai Brugger

by Jack Gardner

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday November 18, 2014

Soprano Janai Brugger
Soprano Janai Brugger  (Source:Jack Gardner)

On Friday Nov. 14, the St. Hugh-Steinway Concert Series presented their second installment for the 2014-2015 season, soprano Janai Brugger accompanied by Roberto Berrocal.

Brugger, who was the 2012 winner of the Metropolitan Opera National auditions, is a lyric soprano who is one of the 'up and comers' in the operatic world, and with good reason. Her voice is lush and golden and her acting skills are top of the line.

She began her program with two Puccini favorites: "O mio babbino caro" from "Gianni Schicchi," and "Quando m'en vo" from "La Boheme." These two arias are staples of the lyric soprano repertoire, and Brugger handled them with ease and grace.

She followed her initial arias with three Lieder by Richard Strauss. "Ruhe, meine Seele," "Cäcilie" and "Morgen" all from Strauss' opus 27, written as a wedding present for his wife. The first and the last piece are interpretively difficult to sing, requiring the performer to maintain a connection with the audience for long periods of time where he or she is not singing. The middle piece is wild and full of passion and romance, and is difficult on both the singer and pianist. Brugger gave life and character to each of these Lieder and Berrocal managed Strauss' challenging piano accompaniments without breaking a sweat.

Brugger followed the Lieder with "M?sí?ku na nebi hlubokém," also known as "The Song to the Moon," from Dvo?ák's opera "Rusalka." Brugger handled singing in Czech very well, and the aria was beautifully haunting.

The first half of the program was concluded with two rousing Zarzuela pieces. Zarzuela is the Spanish version of Operetta and is very popular with south Florida audiences. "La Petenera" from Moreno-Torroba's "La Marchenera" and "De España Vengo" from Luna's "El Niño Judio" are always crowd pleasers, and Brugger sang them very well.

The second half of the program began with a musical theater selection, "Green Finch and Linnet Bird," from "Sweeney Todd." Brugger took this somewhat insipid piece and made it into something special. Women playing this role on stage could take a lesson from her.

Next up were two selections from George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess." The tragic "My Man's Gone Now" and the well-known "Summertime" both brought cheers from the audience.

Two hymns, "Taste and See" and "Amazing Grace," followed, with both Berrocal and Brugger improvising together during the performance of these two numbers.

The program concluded with "I Could Have Danced All Night," a soprano favorite from the musical "My Fair Lady," by Lerner and Lowe, and the encore was "Salida de Cecilia Valdés," from Roig's Zarzuela "Cecilia Valdés." These final two pieces allowed Brugger to end the program on a joyous high note. The musical theater piece was brimming with all the hope of young love, and the Zarzuela piece had the audience tapping its feet to its Cuban rhythms.

The singer is not the only person who works hard in a vocal recital. The accompanist also works very hard, and this program included some very pianistic ally challenging music which Berrocal handled with his usual ease. Berrocal is a fine concert pianist in his own right, as well as being a world-class accompanist.

The St. Hugh-Steinway concert series is fulfilling their mission to bring some of the best singers and pianists to South Florida audiences and this recital with Janai Brugger was world class all the way.

Janai Brugger and Roberto Berrocal performed on Nov. 14 at St. Hugh Catholic Church, 3460 Royal Rd. in Coconut Grove, FL 33133. For tickets and information, about upcoming events call 305-318-5008 or visit

Jack Gardner has been producing theater in Dallas and Fort Lauderdale for the past 8 years. He has performed in operas, musicals and dramatic works as well as doing voice-over and radio work. Jack lives in South Florida with his three dogs.