Soprano Janai Brugger, a 2005 graduate of DePaul University’s School of Music, recently won first prize for a female singer in Plácido Domingo’s 2012 Operalia competition held in Beijing.
In addition to the first-place prize, Brugger also won the $10,000 Pepita Embil Domingo Zarzuela Prize, named in honor of the Domingo’s mother, and the audience vote, earning her a Rolex watch. Famed tenor Domingo refers to the contest, now in its 20th edition, as “the Olympic games for the opera: singers from all over the world compete to get to the finals and to win,” according to the Operalia’s website.
This is the latest in a series of triumphs for Brugger. Earlier this year, she was a winner of the Metropolitan Opera’s 2012 National Council Auditions. She was also the first-place winner of the Western Regional, Metropolitan Opera National Competition of 2011; a finalist in the Loren Zachary Competition in 2011; Midwest Regional, Detroit district winner in the Metropolitan Opera in 2008; first-place finisher for both the Union League and Civic Arts Foundation and the American Opera Society of Chicago in 2007; and placed first in 2004 and 2005 for the National Association for Teachers of Singing.
Brugger is a Chicago native. She recently received her master's degree from the University of Michigan, where she studied with renowned soprano Shirley Verrett. At DePaul, Brugger studied with Elsa Charlston and Harry Silverstein.
“[Opera Theatre Program Director] Harry Silverstein and [voice teacher] Elsa Charlston were wonderful mentors,” Brugger told DePaul Magazine in 2011. “They were encouraging while also being open about the struggles involved in an opera career.”
“The opera students were treated as a professional company. We were expected to be prepared, on time and ready to work. We were taught how to take direction, which not everyone understands. We learned to work as a team, while also taking responsibility for our individual roles.”