“It was not long ago – October 2013, as matter of fact – when American tenor Brian Jagde made his first appearance on the Mondavi stage. At the time, he was one of several singers in a concert billed as the “Rising Stars of Opera.” Flash forward two years, and Jagde is on the same stage, this time in a recital all his own. In that time, Jagde has established himself in the opera world. This past January, he stepped in at the last minute to play Cavaradossi in a Lyric Opera of Chicago production of Tosca, when Ukrainian tenor Misha Didyk backed out. Jagde had only 12 days to prepare, yet performed the role to positive reviews.
His debut appearance at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis Wednesday evening suggests Jagde is more than just a rising star. He’s a singer whose time has come. And a gamer to boot.
It would be hard to imagine a tenor making a bolder, more impressive debut than Jagde did Wednesday, delivering a demanding repertoire over the course of an hour-and-a-half performance . . . There is nothing more exciting than seeing a performer whose career and voice are on a steep uptick, as is the case right now with Jagde. He’s in that zone where he can do no wrong. At Mondavi he possessed a stage presence that was at once relaxed but thoroughly confident. His voice was radiant and warm.
Emily Wickwire – Chicago Tribune
Whether they are fighting evil forces, throwing off the yoke of oppression or, more often, embroiled in some love-inspired conflict, opera characters lead unusually dangerous lives. And, true to the drama inherent in the genre, they somehow always end up on the wrong side of a blade. From the bloodbath that is Bizet’s “Carmen” to the violence-happy “Porgy and Bess,” composers have shown that no production is truly complete without someone plunging a knife into someone else.
But when it comes to characters meeting surprisingly violent ends, the Lyric Opera’s current production of “Tosca” ranks up there with the bloody best. The performance — which kicks off with a new set of principal cast members, headlined by soprano Hui He in the title role, Friday — showcases its stomach-churning, feral violence in two major stabbing scenes: a climactic confrontation between lead character Floria Tosca (He) and her oppressor, Baron Scarpia (Mark Delavan), that ends in her knifing him in the back and rib cage, then finishing him off by slicing his throat, as well as Tosca’s own ill-fated end by way of a suicidal stab right to the jugular. In adapting such a crazed, psychological act for the opera, one might wonder: What goes into staging such a brutal act?
Jeff Hudson – The Davis Enterprise
Mondavi Center audiences last saw lyric tenor Brian Jagde, he was starring in the October 2013 “Rising Stars of Opera” concert.
Jagde had recently completed his term as one of the San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellows, and had appeared in the San Francisco Opera’s 2012 production of “Tosca” in November/December 2013. Jagde sang the role of Caravadossi, and received warm reviews.
Since Jagde sang at Mondavi in 2013, he made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera in April 2014, singing the role of Count Elmer in “Arabella.” He returned to the San Francisco Opera twice in 2014, singing Pinkerton in “Madama Butterfly” in June/July, and reprising his role as Caravadossi in “Tosca” in November/December.
Then Jagde got a call from the Lyric Opera of Chicago in January. The tenor who had previously been booked to sing the role of Caravadossi in their production of “Tosca” had dropped out, just 12 days before opening night. Jagde stepped into the role on short notice, and earned excellent notices for his performance.
“A substitute at Lyric Opera’s Tosca is a revelation . . . On January 12, Lyric Opera general director Anthony Freud announced that Misha Didyk, the Ukrainian tenor scheduled for the leading role of Mario Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca had dropped out of the production “for personal reasons.” Opening night was just 12 days away. But a replacement had been found: a rising young American tenor, Brian Jagde (it’s pronounced Jade), would be stepping in, making his Lyric debut. In the announcement, Freud thanked the Portland Opera for releasing Jagde from a conflicting engagement there . . .
Not to worry! In a revelation to an audience who hadn’t heard him before, Jagde and his Tosca, Russian soprano Tatiana Serjan, also in her Lyric Opera debut, delivered standout performances. (No surprise about Serjan for those who’d heard her in CSO’s concert version of Verdi’s Macbeth, conducted by Riccardo Muti last season.) The abrupt departure from plan resulted in an inspired pairing: two wonderful acting singers with the extraordinary voices that make for opera legend.”
Deanna Isaacs – Chicago Reader
“Puccini’s Tosca returned to Lyric Opera in a beautifully performed, new-to Chicago production that featured a wealth of important company debuts, including the evening’s conductor and all three principal singers (seen Jan. 24) . . . Serjan found an excellent stage partner in Brian Jagde’s handsome, clarion-toned Cavaradossi. The tenor won audience approval from the initial phrases of “Recondita armonia,” which were lyrically dispatched without the bellowing so often heard. Once fully warmed, Jagde produced an impressive flood of ringing sound that appeared to be produced well within his means without spreading under pressure above the staff. The sexual chemistry onstage with Serjan was palpable: this was a hot Tosca duo.”
Mark Thomas Ketterson – Opera News
“Puccini’s score for “Tosca” is chock-full of thrilling moments . . . In Lyric’s production, the less familiar music of Act I is enlightened by soprano Tatiana Serjan’s Tosca and tenor Brian Jagde’s Cavaradossi. They chase each other up and down scaffolding, play-fighting like children, and then suddenly confessing love that cannot be moved. Both are attractive, consummate actors, and bring a freshness to their portrayals . . . His voice’s chiaroscuro (the balance of lightness and darkness) and a razor-sharp focus awarded his Lyric debut with thunderous applause; Jagde seems the new Richard Tucker . . . Jagde alone is reason to attend.“
New City Stage
“Undertaking Richard Strauss’ Salome (Jan. 8) as its first large-scale fully-staged production, the fledgling Opera San Antonio demonstrated impressive musical muscle . . . Brian Jagde’s stirring Narraboth and Renée Rapier’s lustrous Page were pleasurable . . .”
Mike Greenberg – Opera News
“Narraboth has a brief part, but Brian Jagde brought a clarion voice and convincing acting to the role of the captain obsessed beyond all reason with (who else?) Salome.”
Diane Windeler – Classical Voice North America
“Tenor Brian Jagde was solid in his short-lived role as Salome’s would-be lover . . .”
David Hendricks – San Antonio Express-News
“Brian Jagde makes for an earnest Naraboth . . .”
Gregory Sullivan Isaacs – TheaterJones
Brian Jagde returned to the role of Cavaradossi this fall (last seen at San Francisco Opera in 2012) to spectacular reviews:
“The San Francisco Opera is batting a thousand where young singers are concerned this season . . . it’s hard to deny that the headliner and crowd favorite was Brian Jagde, an American lirico-spinto who can’t be more than thirty-two and who’s still singing a fair amount in smaller houses (who will soon be unable to get their mitts on him soon, by the look of things.) Jagde is a handsome guy and has an unfussy, comfortable stage comportment. More to the point, he’s vocally in the clover as Cavaradossi.
“Recondita armonia” strikes me as a particular kind of gift to tenors—it sits high, but it’s short, and someone else is muttering along while you build up to the B-flat, and the melody lets you make a money note of the G if you’re not feeling it quite that early in the evening. Jagde made the most of it. Much as I’ve enjoyed hearing veterans belt the thing over the years, it was refreshing to the point of mild disorientation to hear such a tight and youthful sound lavished on it . . . it’s a voice that, while sleek, fills the house most gratifyingly. He could not have more effectively signed up a fan base had he opted for “You’re Gonna Love Me” as a suitcase aria, and the rest of the evening made good on early promise.”
Greg Freed – parterre.com
“A great match for the celebrated soprano is tenor Brian Jagde as Mario Cavaradossi, with his remarkably good looks, commanding stage presence, dramatic talent, and the most amazing voice – so powerful and effortless – it gives a listener a special kind of satisfaction when one knows that nothing could go wrong, and the enjoyment will sustain to the very last note, and beyond!”
Emma Krasov – Art and Entertain Me
“The real star—do not miss him—is tenor Brian Jagde. He is magnificent.”
Kevin Sessums – dot429.com
‘and tenor Brian Jagde . . . delivered a ripping account of “Nessun dorma” from Puccini’s “Turandot.” The crowd roared its approval.’ SFGate – Joshua Kosman – 9/7/2014
“A life on the road can get lonely from time to time. Brian Jagde, our Pinkerton in this summer’s Madame Butterfly, is no exception to the rule. Thankfully he has his trusty companian Cav with him where ever he goes! Brian most recently appeared on the San Francisco Opera stage in our 2012 production of Tosca. Where has Brian and Cav been since? Let’s find out in our Operatic Doggie Diary!” To read more click here!
“Jagde has emerged as first rate Puccini tenor, possessing the spinto weight expected of Pinkerton or a Cavaradossi as well as the lyrical beauty to do justice to Puccini’s richly melodic score.”
“Tenor Brian Jagde is simply a dream come true as “Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton”. His character, of course, is the ultimate cad, the definition of the Ugly American. But for the trusting Butterfly – who gives up family, social acceptance and sheds her religious convictions for the god of her husband – Jagde is the ideal package. His full lyric tenor stems from his training with San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program and Adler Fellows.”
Examiner.com – Sean Martinfield
“. . . Racette was in good company, with Brian Jagde providing a full-throated, tall and handsome Pinkerton . . .”
Huffington Post – George Heymont
“This is a genuine three-hanky show, grandly performed by a talented cast . . . Caballero and Brian Jagde, as Alfredo, are so good that you can’t help but root for them to recapture their love and, just this once, avoid the tragedy that awaits the endings of all great operas. Alas, it is not to be, but they sure are emotionally gripping to watch along the way.”