Meet the Artist: Jennifer Johnson Cano
In anticipation of Jennifer Johnson Cano’s upcoming performance for the Tucson Desert Song Festival, we asked her a few questions so you can get to know her better!
How did you originally get into opera?
I became involved with opera because of my undergraduate voice teacher, Carole Gaspar. I had started my college education as a choral conductor and she urged me to listen to all types of music and assigned me some arias to learn. I enjoyed this introduction and she then had me audition for the opera studio program, where I was cast as Cherubino and thoroughly enjoyed being onstage. She also encouraged me to take a summer job at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where I really could be an audience member for my first operatic experiences. Carole was the source of it all and I’m greatly indebted to her.
You’re performing your vocal recital with your husband, Christopher Cano, Head of Music and Director for the Marion Roose Pullin Arizona Opera Studio. What is it like to work with your husband on something like this?
It is pretty much the best thing ever! Preparing recitals is a labor of love for both of us and we relish every aspect, from programming to practicing to performing. He is a musician of the highest caliber and my most trusted musical partner. The fact that we are husband and wife are just the sprinkles atop an already frosted cake.
Do you have any special strategies to help keep your voice in shape?
I sing almost everyday and I know that, in itself, just keeps me in touch with where my voice is and how to track my progress and comfort with the music I’m preparing. I like to take lots of walks and try to also have real moments of rest and downtime. I cook for myself (and Chris) and avoid noisy places. My routine is actually mundane, but peace and quiet keeps my brain and body the happiest so I can work.
Opera singers are constantly traveling to different venues across the world to perform. What’s the most favorite venue you’ve ever performed in?
There are so many fantastic venues, but the Musikverein in Vienna, Austria holds a special place in my heart. I studied in Vienna for four months while in undergrad and attended performances there and this past fall, I returned as a performer with the Cleveland Orchestra. The hall was as beautiful and resplendent as I remembered and I then had an entirely new appreciation as performer.
What would you tell aspiring singers about pursuing a career in opera today?
There are so many ideas I would want to share! The two most important being 1) Learn the craft of being a musician. Study and understand the structure of the piece of music at hand and learn how your part fits into the ensemble. This type of preparation provides insight of how one can best serve the composer’s intentions. 2) Always do your best to bring curiosity, joy and enthusiasm to your voice lessons, coachings, rehearsals and performances. Not only will your teachers and colleagues have more fun, but you will as well!
See Jennifer Johnson Cano perform live selections with pianist and Tucson native, Christopher Cano on January 17!