Jennifer Johnson Cano
Cleveland Orchestra wraps classical season in challenging, satisfying manner

There could not have been a better choice for soloist than Jennifer Johnson Cano, whose dark and lustrous mezzo-soprano and emotive power held the audience spellbound. Her extensive operatic experience allowed her to bring conviction to the text's range of emotion, from flashing anger to prayerful supplication.


Mark Satola,
Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom with Parameswaran & Cano

...the show mostly belonged to mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano. By turns stern and mournful according to the demands of the sacred text, Cano held the crowd in the palm of her hand as the orchestra faded behind her in a moment of descending pitch and volume. Her flawless final taper to silence seemed an inimitable moment of artistry, until Parameswaran conjured a conclusion of startling clarity from the orchestra.

Nicholas Stevens, Cleveland Classical
JJC and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

The program began with Manuel de Falla’s Psyché, a sensual, nebulous song for voice, flute, violin, viola, cello, and harp. Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano embodied the alluring mystery of de Falla’s work, her voice shimmering and pulsing with a languorous, almost nonchalant desire. Together, Cano and the instrumentalists created a seamless ensemble of texture and timbre.

The themes of desire and mystery continued through Ravel’s exquisite Shéhérazade. Cano captivated with her malleable musicality, bending her sizable mezzo-soprano to meet the subtle and delicate demands of Ravel’s vocal writing. Her “Asie” was full of melancholy, restless excitement of the spirit, and frustrated resignation. In “La Flûte enchantée,” Cano’s poetic sensuality was balanced by the marvelous and ecstatic playing of flutist Tara Helen O’Connor. “L’Indifférent,” the third and final song, brought Cano and pianist Alessio Bax together in an enigmatic and delicate performance, which ended, appropriately, with more questions than answers.

Steven Jude Tietjen, Opera News
BLO's 'Handmaid's Tale' -- Sublime Dystopia

This is Offred’s tale and opera, and Jennifer Johnson Cano delivers memorably. Rarely leaving the stage, she has mastered an emotionally fraught libretto as well as a musically challenging score. Cano brings a beautiful, shimmering pianissimo to her more introspective moments and and an impressive vocal stamina to the role’s more bombastic heights. Throughout, she skillfully conveys Offred’s grief, distrust, and reluctant persistence.

Katrina Holden-Buckley, the arts fuse
'The Handmaid's Tale' Is a Brutal Triumph as Opera

Find joy in the towering account of Offred offered here by the mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano. Restless, powerful, profound, she is as formidable as this astonishingly demanding role deserves.

David Allen, New York Times
Installation 'Handmaid's Tale' a Dramatic, Chilling Staging

I cannot imagine that preparing for a role such as Offred is particularly easy by any stretch of the imagination: in this production, the only time she ever left the stage was to facilitate a quick change after Commander Fred takes her to an illicit sex party, and she spends a good chunk of this time absolutely singing her face off. It is a role that easily rivals roles like Elektra and Brünnhilde in terms of the demands on the singer’s voice, but it also adds the challenge of having to embody a character who spends the entire work dealing with trauma while also living under patriarchal oppression, a characterization demand which would no doubt wear at the nerves of even the most steel-hearted woman.

And here, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano absolutely delivered. Her vocal stamina was something to be marvelled at considered that her voice never lost the beauty of its tone across the opera’s three-hour runtime, but more than this she dove straight into Offred as a character and physically embodied her with a brave vulnerability that cannot be underestimated. The rest of the cast amply delivered in their characterizations, but this was Offred’s story, and Jennifer Johnson Cano never let you forget this fact.

Arturo Fernandez, Schmopera
Boston Lyric Opera's powerful 'Handmaid's Tale' lands close to home

Through much of the opera, what we are observing — and marveling at — is the tour de force performance of mezzo soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano in the central part of Offred, seemingly a role she was born to inhabit. Offred is onstage for almost all of the opera’s roughly 150 minutes, singing for much of that time. In interactions with her oppressors, Offred’s vocal range is confined, and Cano adds poignant weight to each note when engaging with them. When the character is alone and free to escape into memory, the singer soars into a luminous, complex high range, letting her voice stretch toward freedom. This is her tale to tell, and she tells the hell out of it.

Zoë Madonna, The Boston Globe
A memorable performance of a Janáček rarity from Polenzani at Zankel Hall

“Cano was excellent, letting the music flow with a pure sound and just the slightest inflection, sounding like a woman who knows the power of her beauty and wields it with honesty and love.”

New York Classical Review
Halloween Comes Early with Kallor's 'Frankenstein' and Poe

Dressed in what looked like hospital scrubs, Cano's coolly homicidal story--climaxing with the beating heart of a dismembered man (hidden beneath the floorboards) driving her over the edge--had the audience in the palm of her hand. With her fierce emotions echoing the scintillating, urgent score, she took every opportunity to bring the role to life (and death).

Richard Sasanow, Broadway World
Gregg Kallor's Gothic Thrillers in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery

Cano’s singing was volcanic: molten sound poured out of her. She was fearless in plumbing the depths of the Narrator’s psyche both vocally and dramatically. There were no props for her to rely on and only one lighting change, when a red wash coincided with the imagined beating of the victim’s heart that tormented her. It was just Cano and the music. She’s a voice, talent and temperament to be reckoned with.

Seen and Heard International
A Perfectly Macabre Halloween Month Extravaganza at Green-Wood Cemetery

Cano then pulled out all the stops in The Tell-Tale Heart. It was a dynamic tour de force that ultimately demanded every bit of available firepower and range-stretching technique. In between those extremes, she delivered furtive puzzlement, and grisly determination, and finally a knockout portrait of sheer madness. Whether modulating her soul-infused vibrato or belting with a crypt-shaking power, she put on a clinic in just about every emotion that could be evinced from this creepy character.

Alan Young, New York Music Daily

"Jennifer Johnson Cano seizes one of the most challenging arias in all of opera and she flies to glory with it. In an astonishing coloratura display she warbles like a skylark. She sprinkles showers of notes with laser-like precision. It's a brilliant tour-de-force."

"Jennifer Johnson Cano, a home town girl, totally owns this role, this show. She's almost always on-stage singing her heart out. She makes this a truly . . .GLORIOUS PRODUCTION."

Steve Callahan, Broadway World
Opera Theatre of St. Louis presents a musically outstanding 'Orfeo and Euridice'

"The opera is largely carried by its Orfeo, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, who brings a big, rich voice that’s flawlessly produced in both lyrical and fiendishly challenging coloratura passages.  Dramatically, she was fully engaged, whether in mourning Euridice (she does a lot of that), charming the furies, or, finally, rejoicing. OTSL built its production around the St. Louis native, and it paid off."

Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Johnson Cano Stellar in Probing Gluck’s Mythical Vision of Love

"Johnson Cano delivers a vocally elegant Orfeo, deftly navigating her lines with appropriate color and showing no signs of strain. Clear-sounding and purposeful, she received ovation after ovation and none bigger than after her heartfelt “J’ai perdu mon Eurydice” sung in English like every OTSL production over the loss of her lover."


Santosh Venkataraman, Opera Wire
A Master-Class in Poetic Nuance from Seemingly Modest Songs

"And it became clear from the rest of a program that ranged linguistically from those songs’ Occitan texts, by way of German and Spanish, to the English set by Barber, Bernstein, and the 58-year-old London-born Jonathan Dove, that her care for clarity and expressiveness of diction is unremitting, and extends to an unusually precise yet delicate way with final “r”s."

"While all these qualities revealed the widely differing musical characters of the cleverly chosen repertoire she was singing, her husband, Christopher Cano, was no whit less impressive in his command of the keyboard, responding to his scores with frequently dazzling strength of tone and lucidity of texture.  Altogether the recital was something of a master-class in the realization of poetic nuance. As absorbing as the other composers’ texts were, Dove’s Tennyson poems, especially ‘O Swallow, Swallow’, instantly lifted the quality of the literary discourse to a strikingly higher level."

Bernard Jacobson, Seen and Heard International
ASO excels with Kurth, Bernstein and Beethoven

"Toward the end of the operatic third movement, mezzo soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano cried, filled with rage and emotion, “Depart ye! Unclean.” In full voice, Cano uttered this judgment, then stopped, shaking with fury. In this momentary pause, she let the anger wash away; returning in the next phrase, with soft sweetness, she asked for forgiveness. In that short passage, Cano elegantly interpreted the mastery at the heart of Bernstein’s earliest symphony."

Jon Ross, The Atlanta Journal Constitution
Soloists of the Metropolitan Opera (Philadelphia Chamber Music Society)

"Cano never appears to rest on the laurels of her richly expressive voice. She is an artist committed to the text as much as the music, as evidenced by the crystal-clear diction employed across the program’s broad language spectrum."

"The program closed with “D’amour l’ardente flamme” (Love’s ardent flame), Marguerite’s aria from Berlioz’s opera (oratorio, really) La Damnation de Faust.  The Met has a beautiful production of this opera by Robert LePage that it hasn’t revived in nearly a decade; should they decide to bring it out of storage any time soon, they need look no further for an able Marguerite."

Cameron Kelsall,
Stoyanova and de León deliver gripping vocalism in Met’s “Aida

The manic intensity of Jennifer Johnson Cano’s taut mezzo was captivating in her brief but memorable offstage turn as the priestess, singing the entrancing prayer to Ptah.

Eric C. Simpson, New York Classical Review
Cleveland Orchestra & Seraphic Fire Raise The Bar Uniting With Bach And Bruckner

The Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano with her indulgence of divine voice in Canata No.34 was a piece to be cherished. Her presence was hugely welcomed by the audience.

Kumar Rahul, The Classical Arts
Cleveland Orchestra, Seraphic Fire ascend the heights with Bach and Bruckner

The central aria “Wohl euch, ihr auserwählten Seelen” was superbly sung by Jennifer Johnson Cano. Cano’s lovely mezzo timbre, affinity for Baroque style and emotional projection of the text were a real luxury.

Lawrence Budmen, South Florida Classical Review
Feliz (re-)Navidad - El Niño, Paris (Philharmonie)

Jennifer Johnson Cano, dont la voix souple et moirée se glisse sans difficulté dans le rôle créé par sa défunte compatriote. Repérée dans de petits rôles au Met, cette jeune artiste possède de solides atouts pour faire carrière.

‘Jennifer Johnson Cano, whose agile, shimmering voice assumes effortlessly the famous mezzo role created by her sadly deceased compatriot, Lorraine Hunt. Discovered via her secondary roles at the Met, this young artist possesses all the necessary qualities to make an international career.’

Laurent Bury, Forum Opéra
An alternative Nativity at the Barbican: John Adams' El Niño

Jennifer Johnson Cano was magnificent, especially in the settings of sublime poetry by Rosario Castellanos, conveying the emotional mysticism of conception and pregnancy in La anunciación.

Penny Homer,
El Niño @ Barbican Hall, London

The soloists were also excellent, with Jennifer Johnson Cano standing out in particular. Her heartfelt performance of Castellanos’ La anunciación was beautifully measured as her mezzo-soprano felt sumptuous without seeming inappropriately flashy.

Sam Smith, musicOMH
Love and Death in the Afternoon: Calixto Bieito's Carmen in Boston

"Johnson Cano, voluptuous and Titian-tressed, moves confidently and seductively, matching her chiaroscuro mezzo to the action. She avoids the pitfall of many Carmens by allowing the music to speak for itself, only coloring the words and refraining from over-interpreting. Act IV was a lesson in how to blend singing and acting to achieve a layered portrayal."

Kevin Wells, Bachtrack
Carmen - Boston Lyric Opera

Mezzo Jennifer Johnson Cano did full justice to the title role.  A hair-raising card scene, replete with dramatic chest notes and bold attacks in the upper register, was a highlight.

Angelo Mao, Opera News
Des Moines’ Gluck Sets the Standard

"In a time that many young singers sound polished but somewhat monochromatic, no one seems to have told Jennifer Johnson Cano to play it safe. Ms. Cano’s highly individual Orphée was a star turn of significant proportions. Her burnished mezzo has it all: size, color, agility, evenness and individuality."

James Sohre, Opera Today
Orphée emerges at Des Moines Metro Opera

In a cast of Des Moines Metro Opera debuts, Jennifer Johnson Cano was a standout (and, one hopes, a repeat performer).

As the grief-stricken husband Orphée, Cano sang with heartrending emotion while never sacrificing her rose gold vocal tone. In the opening scene, Orphée pawed at the grave of his beloved Eurydice, muddying his radiantly all-white suit. Cano also dug into each vocal line showing warmth from the top of the range to the bottom of her chest voice. Cano’s delivery of “Ah! puisse ma douleur finir avec ma vie!” while covered in falling rose petals after the famous “J'ai perdu mon Eurydice” aria was the most arresting performing of the evening.

Megan Ihnen, The Des Moines Register
Jennifer Johnson Cano at the Morgan

"Dramatic intelligence and imagination suffused every note of Ms. Johnson Cano’s performance. Endowed with an attention-grabbing dark mezzo, its depths bracing like strong coffee, she seems to thrive in the role of a storyteller, greatly enhanced by her symbiotic interaction with her husband and accompanist, Christopher Cano.

Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, New York Times
Cleveland Orchestra's 'Messiah' emerges as holiday program not to miss

“Jennifer Johnson Cano was truly stellar. She, in fact, was the complete package, a voice agile and forceful, spacious and laden with emotion. Whether proclaiming "good tidings to Zion" or distilling the anguish of Christ's rejection, she was a poignant medium.”

Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer
Fine singing lifts BLO’s feminist retooling of “Don Giovanni”

No longer a mere scold and nuisance—as Don Giovanni, and some other productions, see her—Elvira took on new dimensions Friday night as Johnson Cano took full advantage of the musical resources Mozart provided, tailoring her clear, versatile voice from the spitting fury of her first rage aria “Ah! chi mi dice mai” to the excited ambivalence of “Ah, taci, ingiusto core” and the resigned forgiveness of “Mi tradì quell’alma ingrata.” Elvira is the only character in this drama who evolves noticeably during the action, and Johnson Cano, in an auspicious debut with this company, made sure the evolution was noticed. 

David Wright, Boston Classical Review
Jennifer Johnson Cano and Christopher Cano at Tertulia Chamber Music

"The Canteloube songs perhaps found Cano most in her expressive element: she is a mesmerizing actress, fully committed to her text. For the Canteloube selections, she herself translated the Auvergne dialect into English for the program notes, an accomplishment that only strengthened her connection to the songs’ characters: she knows what she is singing, why she’s singing it and to whom she is singing. As a result, she allows emotion to propel her voice into glorious moments. In “La Delaïssádo,” the shepherdess’s lover does not come to meet her, and she is devastated, as were Cano’s listeners."

"Barber’s Three Songs, Op. 10, music set to the poetry of James Joyce, found Cano’s piano and forte moments both equally warm and voluptuous. Her English diction was crisp and clear, so much so that the words printed in the program were superfluous. The Barber selections were also a demonstration of her technique and control. Her exquisite vibrato is neither too quick nor fluttery. The top of her range has no pinch or stridency, and yet she is able to deploy the depths of her range for rich, dark low notes, which allowed her to convey passion to the point of torture in “Rain Has Fallen.” It also helps that she has enormously expressive eyes and a voice that, somehow, never overwhelmed the space, despite her instrument’s size. In “I Hear an Army,” she packed the room with the feeling of a trudging soldier by means of specifically calculated rhythmic patterns and stresses."

Maria Mazzaro, Opera News
Alsop, BSO deliver riveting program of Bernstein and Beethoven

"The finale benefited from the riveting contributions of soloist Jennifer Johnson Cano. Her deep, velvety mezzo and impassioned phrasing gave Jeremiah's warnings such startling immediacy that I wouldn't have been surprised to see people in the hall ducking under their seats."

Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun
'Bernstein and Beethoven' with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at Strathmore

"Ms. Cano...has both a delightful singing instrument and acting chops to spare. That’s no small thing standing alone with only music to guide you. But the alternation of her smile with fist-pounding anger at the variety of Jeremiah’s declarations in Lamentations left nothing to the imagination – even, again, in the original Hebrew rather than English translation."

David Rohde, DC Metro Theater Arts
Hearing a voice on the rise

"Her voice is radiant and intense, rich in the lower part of her range, bright and precise at the top, with astonishing evenness throughout. For such a commanding singer she also cuts a remarkably approachable persona on stage, and has an uncanny ability to discern and embody the character of each song."

"Jennifer Johnson Cano brought to her singing a natural sense of drama and wit that never became trite. Similar flashes of nonchalance were strewn through de Falla’s “Seven Popular Spanish Songs,” along with a smoldering sense of anger in the final “Polo.” But the deepest impression was left by “Asturiana,” a melancholy song whose subject is sorrow itself. Here Cano seemed to cast aside vocal shadings and reveal something steely and pure. The effect was devastating."

David Weiniger, The Boston Globe
Minimalist approach spotlights performers in VOICE Fest's "Carmen"

"Your computer screen has nothing on sitting mere feet from Jennifer Johnson Cano as she relishes every note of the vocal score in the title role of “Carmen,” delivering the lines flawlessly as they resonate in your heart and then disappear forever."

Joshua Peacock, DO Savannah
La Calisto - Cincinnati Opera

"Jennifer Johnson Cano, also in her Cincinnati Opera debut, made a strong impression as Diana. Her voice is pure and steady, a rather dark mezzo with a good deal of flexibility. She handled the comedy and serious moments of her role with equal aplomb."

Joe Law, Opera News
Cincinnati Opera's La Calisto

"Mezzo Jennifer Johnson Cano was a formidable Diana, singing with authority and melting emotion."

Anne Arenstein, City Beat
Noseda, orchestra and fine cast make a heroic case for Met's "Chenier"

"Cano is particularly vivacious and sexy"

George Grella, New York Classical Review
Falstaff: A Massive Achievement Worthy of Its Larger-Than-Life Title Character
"Of the four women in the work, Meg is often the most overlooked. Jennifer Johnson Cano made sure that she was not overlooked on Friday night as she delivered a rather nuanced performance as Meg. She frolicked about as the women schemed in Act 3 and during the final wedding, earning furious laughter from the spectators. Her mezzo-soprano's elegance radiated throughout the theater during her select moments to shine."
David Salazar, Latinos Post
A fine ensemble cast boosts the Met's delightful fifties-era "Falstaff"
"Jennifer Johnson Cano’s mezzo gave balance to ensemble moments and she clearly had great fun with her role; she made one regret that Verdi did not give Meg Page enough solo passages."
Eric Myers, New York Classical Review
Jennifer Johnson Cano makes Carnegie Hall debut

"In a program of French, German, English and Russian, they (Mr. and Mrs. Cano) delighted, wowed, and stunned us with great theatricality and profound musicianship by pulling out all the stops, and sparing no vocal trick."

"In her Russian set, she gave us chills in her dramatic interpretation of Georgy Sviridov’s “The Virgin in the City.” As the chords churned and the text delve deeper into the story, Ms. Cano’s performance became darker and more thrilling. She kept one on the edge of ones seat as the piece drew to its climax. The music and her poetry in the text just broke your heart."

"At the end of the day, all any of this is about connecting. Taking simple dots on lines and communicating from a single person, or persons, to a group of people sitting in the dark. Simple in concept yet marvelously gratifying when executed properly. Mr and Ms. Cano not only communicated, but they touched our souls with their music."

"This is how recitals should be sung: gripping, communicative, and spellbinding."

Jake Johansen,
Three World Premières with a Side of Bartók
"Could Harbison have asked for a more compelling vocal interpreter than the young mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano? She warmly communicated the emotional impact of every phrase, employing with evident ease a vibrant, bright mezzo voice that commanded the modest confines of Sherwood Auditorium. With all of her operatic horsepower, however, she did not allow a single word of Glück’s concise text to slip by unnoticed."
Ken Herman, San Diego Story
A Master Singer Transmits Her Artistry
"The mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano demonstrated emotionally concentrated musicianship in three songs by Liszt, with fervent piano accompaniment by her husband, Christopher Cano. Her voice seems to come out of a happy nexus of heart, soul and brain that lends an authoritative weight to every note."
Corinna da Fonesca-Wollheim, New York Times
Mozart's Mass in C Minor
"Her fresh, fruity tone was a pleasure to hear; so was her effervescent phrasing. She rather gilded the lily with her “joyful” deportment in the Laudamus Te movement: the smile in her voice so completely expressed the sentiment that no special gestural emphasis was needed."

Fred Cohn, Opera News
Virginia's Woolf's Words, a Singer's Voice
"Character — individuality, a taste for risk — is the attribute some find lacking in young American singers, but Ms. Johnson Cano has it: an honesty and assurance so impressive that you want to call it bravery."

"Emotion suffused every moment of her eloquent, impassioned New York debut recital. She met with elegance and confidence all the challenges of a varied program... Hers is better than a good voice; it's an interesting one."
Zachary Woolfe, New York Times
Mezzo Soprano's Jennifer Johnson Cano's talent has depth
"Those who missed Monday's recital by the young mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater lost a rare opportunity to hear a fine talent with a promising future right at her doorstep."

"Her sweeping gestures, expansive dynamic range and myriad tonal colors reflected Woolf’s most intimate confessions, giving them an immediacy directly felt throughout the theater."

"With the first notes of Porpora's ultra-baroque homage to Jove, it was obvious that Cano has a voluminous voice with remarkable agility in her higher range and a molten contralto quality lower down, gliding between these registers with seeming ease."
Cecelia Porter, Washington Post
Two terrific singers keep COT's song cycles focused on the music
"Jennifer Johnson Cano brought a sincerity and emotional depth to these beautiful songs that made the texts' occasional excesses seem completely irrelevant."
Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

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