Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.

Sound Bites: Jennifer Johnson Cano

by F. PAUL DRISCOLL

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Photographed by Dario Acosta in New York
Makeup and hair by Affan Malik / gown: Tosca New York / jewelry: vintage
Location courtesy Washing Board Laundromat, Orangeburg, NY
© Dario Acosta 2013
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Jennifer Johnson Cano, the Met's merry Meg Page
© Dario Acosta 2013

Jennifer Johnson Cano will be one of the "merry wives" who toss Sir John out with the laundry when Robert Carsen's staging of Falstaff opens at the Met this month. It will mark the St. Louis-born mezzo's first Meg Page, and she's looking forward to it. "Meg is a little bit of a mystery, which is why I like her. You don't know quite so much about her as you do about Alice, because Meg is not as vocal. But I love the back-and-forth between Meg and Alice, especially in the letter quartet — you know that they're friends, but they have this little bit of a competition with each other, which is very real and very funny."

Cano's rich, rosy timbre and elegantly forthright performing style helped her to score a win in the Met's National Council Grand Finals Concert in 2008, when her performance of "Must the Winter Come So Soon?" was one of the loveliest moments of the afternoon. Now an alumna of the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, Cano makes another company role debut this season — Bersi in the spring revival of Andrea Chénier. ("It will be fun to be naughty, right?") Cano's highest-profile Met assignment to date has undoubtedly been Wellgunde in Robert Lepage's staging of Wagner's Ring: she sang in the HD transmissions of Das Rheingold and Götterdämmerung and was featured in Susan Froemke's documentary Wagner's Dream. "When we finished the final Götterdämmerung, I got very emotional, which I wasn't expecting. I realized it was because that production — which I had been a part of for three years — had taught me that I can do anything, staging-wise. I no longer fear wildly physical stagings. The Ring knocked me out of my comfort zone. It was actually really hard to hang up my little Rhinemaiden costume and say 'So long.'"

Falstaff will reunite Cano with James Levine, who paced her in Rheingold and as Ludmilla in The Bartered Bride at Juilliard in 2011. "It's so enlightening to watch Maestro Levine work with an orchestra. With Bartered Bride, I saw him really talk to the Juilliard Orchestra and explain what he was wanting — how they should listen to singers, and how the singers should listen to the orchestra. And that really changed my entire way of approaching a score, of studying a score and then — when we're actually working with the orchestra — knowing what to tune in so that you're really part of the full ensemble, from top to bottom. I can't wait to experience that again." spacer 

F. PAUL DRISCOLL

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Current Issue: December 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 6