SALT LAKE CITY — While most people are debating and questioning the results of this week's Oscars, Jessica Jones still hasn’t gotten over an outcome from the awards ceremony two weeks earlier.
And there’s one thing she wants to know: When will she get her Grammy Award?
The 31-year-old opera singer did get her first Grammy at the awards ceremony on Feb. 10 — she just doesn’t have it in her hands yet, as it’s being engraved in Colorado.
But Jones doesn’t need the trophy to relive that night. She recalls it vividly.
“I was shocked,” she told the Deseret News from Miami, where she currently performs with Florida Grand Opera. “You don’t ever anticipate winning a Grammy. It was just never something I imagined would happen to me or in my life.”
The soprano — who played Steve Jobs’ girlfriend, Chrisann Brennan, in the world premiere of “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” at Santa Fe Opera in 2017 — won a Grammy for best opera recording. And it was all the more special that her parents got to take part in the big moment — all the way from a Lowe’s parking lot in Pocatello, Idaho.
Jones grew up in a small town — which still has little to no internet reception — about 20 minutes outside of Pocatello, and her parents’ best bet at streaming the ceremony on their phones was that Lowe’s parking lot. To Jones’ knowledge, her parents’ screams didn’t draw too much attention to passersby.
“They saw the whole thing and were just freaking out in the car,” Jones said with a laugh. “I’m glad they were able to actually see it in real-time and catch that moment. I know it was really special for them.”
And the way Jones sees it, that special moment wouldn’t have happened without Utah Opera.
‘A launching pad’ for success
The soprano was a resident artist with Utah Opera from January 2015-May 2016, performing smaller roles in the company’s operas and taking part regularly in educational outreach programs. But Utah Opera wasn’t just special because it was her first opera residency; it was a company she’d had her eye on for a long time.
“I’d been wanting to sing with Utah Opera since graduating (with a master’s degree) in 2011,” said Jones, who studied vocal performance at the University of Houston. “I had graduated and I’d sung for Utah (Opera) several times and gotten great feedback (but) hadn’t gotten into the program.”
When the unexpected opportunity arose to fill a position in the resident artist program, Jones leapt at the chance. She moved to Utah just a couple of weeks after receiving the call, considering it “a dream come true.” During her year and a half with the company, Jones sang in several operas, including “Aida” and “The Merry Widow,” and performed for children in public schools across the state.
“That was really special, to be able to introduce kids to opera. It’s so important for the future of the art form to continue to build new audiences, so it was really nice to be part of that journey,” Jones said. “(But) I (also) got to see so much of that beautiful state that I never would have seen otherwise. … I have seen the most beautiful national parks on the planet during my time at Utah Opera.”
But above all, it was Utah Opera’s “rigorous” schedule that Jones believes put her on the path to winning her first Grammy. After finishing her residency in May 2016, the soprano went on to Santa Fe Opera, where she workshopped Mason Bates’ opera, “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” and starred in the opera’s world premiere.
“One of the main skills I gained (at Utah Opera) was being able to really be comfortable in learning music very quickly,” she said. “The level of artistry that’s expected is high. So that set me up really well for going into a world premiere. … The practical experience that I got in Utah really helped set me up for success. Frankly, they were kind of a launching pad for me to get to Santa Fe and for a lot of my next steps in my career, so I owe a lot to them.”
Winning a Grammy
In Santa Fe, Jones didn’t approach her role as Steve Jobs’ girlfriend, Chrisann, any differently from roles she’d had with Utah Opera. But as the first person to ever play the role, Jones admitted being a little intimidated. This wasn’t a Juliet Capulet or a struggling artist from “La boheme”; this was a living, breathing person.
“Who knows if she’ll see the piece, (but) you just want to do them as much honor as you can,” Jones said. “You just want to make sure you’re respecting that they might see this and that you are really creating something that feels authentic for them.
“She’s an absolutely brilliant woman,” Jones continued. “Her journey in this opera, we get to see her … in the moments when she is vulnerable. She’s pregnant with Steve’s baby, dealing with the frustrations of being rejected by him after he denies that it’s his child, and (we see) the struggles she goes through.”
While not biographical, the one-act opera shows Jobs, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2011, confronting his mortality and takes audiences through some of the events that shaped Jobs’ life.
“We get to see him as the flawed human he was — this genius that changed all of our lives but who had a lot of trouble in his life with his relationships,” Jones said.
Seattle Opera is currently putting on the production, and next year, “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” will travel to San Francisco. Jones is beyond grateful for the chance she had to take part in the opera’s world premiere — after all, she’s got a Grammy to her name because of it. The soprano will continue work as a studio artist with Florida Grand Opera through May and from there, she looks forward to seeing where this Grammy win takes her. But there’s one thing Jones is certain of: She’s not done with Utah yet.
“I just love Utah Opera — they’re an outstanding company,” she said. “I’m so grateful for the time I had there. I miss the Wasatch Front, and Salt Lake just really holds a special place in my heart. I hope I can get back to Utah soon and enjoy the beautiful landscapes and beautiful people.”