Wherever Jenna Rae performs, there is beauty, rigor, generosity of emotion, and an unusual ability to connect. With her first performance of Isolde with TUNDI Productions in 2019, Jenna Rae received breathtaking accolades from critics, from colleagues, from Wagnerites who travel internationally for Wagner productions, and from attendees who possibly did not know what they were coming to! This was a milestone in a great singer’s transition from mezzo-soprano to dramatic soprano, along the way performing Leonora (Il trovatore), Santuzza, also Mother (Amahl and the Night Visitors), and Elettra (Idomeneo). The journey started with Tosca in 2014 with another company she co-founded, PanOpera. As a mezzo-soprano, Jenna Rae’s career included ensemble work with Boston Lyric Opera, then the highlight roles of La Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder and Das Lied von der Erde. Concert work with orchestra recently has included Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder, Vaughan Williams’ Dona nobis pacem and Ellington’s Second Sacred Concert; upcoming in 2020 is Mahler’s Symphony No.8. She is co-creator with Hugh Keelan of Wolf, a children’s musical based on the life of St Francis, and Boudica, a Grand Opera in which she will sing the title role of the Icene warrior queen from the first century, and the production company TUNDI, dedicated to the all-encompassing artworks of Richard Wagner. Ms. Rae is a graduate of Northwestern University where she studied voice and clarinet. In 2020 Jenna Rae addresses the role of Brünnhilde in Die Walküre, with a full Ring Cycle in active preparation.
CLO Associate Artistic Director recently corresponded with cast members from our upcoming production of Tristan und Isolde to ask them some questions about their backgrounds, how they got involved in singing opera, and how they came to work with CLO. This article will feature three of our company members from the production.
Can you share a little bit about your family heritage or origins with us?
I grew up in Carlisle, Massachusetts I am American with Scandanavian, German, English, Irish and Ashkenazi (Polish and Lithuanian) roots, and my step-father is Sicilian so I grew up eating great Sicilian food.
How did you originally become interested in singing opera?
I started taking voice lessons when I was in high school, and my teacher suggested that I look at opera. I heard the Liebestod (the last part of Tristan und Isolde) and knew that I wanted to be able to sing like that. I was already an accomplished musician on the clarinet, so I transferred all of that training to learning opera.
Do you have any prior experience singing Isolde? I began working on this role about 2 years ago and I performed it for the first time in August 2019 in Vermont.
What do you think is the most interesting part of your journey of working in the operatic art form?
It has taken a long time for me to get to the point where I can do these Wagnerian roles both physically and emotionally, but now that I am here, I can see that it was worth the work and the wait.
How did you become involved with CLO?
A friend of mine told me that they were looking for an Isolde and I jumped at the idea of singing the role again and contacted CLO.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you are excited about?
My Husband and I have started a Wagner in Vermont Festival and we are going to be performing Tristan und Isolde again and I will also sing Brunnhilde in Die Walküre in August of 2020.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Jenna.