Jennifer D. Behnke - Praised by Gordon Hawkins as “quite possibly the strongest singer (he's) ever met," Ms. Behnke is the inaugural recipient of the Eugene L. Brister Memorial award from the Wagner Society of New York. Ms. Behnke performed in the Holiday Recital on January 4, 2015 with heldentenor Ric Furman.
Earlier this season, Jennifer made her role debut as Brünnhilde(Die Walküre) at Bruno Walter Auditorium with the New York Opera Forum, this season sees her return to the company with the roles of Brünnhilde(Götterdämmerung), Nedda(Pagliacci), Giorgietta(Il Tabarro) and the title roles in Norma and Elektra. She was an invited scholarship recipient by Johanna Meier for her Opera Theatre Intensive in Spearfish, South Dakota, performing the role of Female Chorus(Rape of Lucretia). Jennifer has also been a returning participant in the Baldwin Wallace Wagner Intensive, headed by renown soprano Jane Eaglen. Ms. Behnke performed the roles of Elsa(Lohengrin) and Sieglinde(Die Walküre). In 2012, Ms. Eaglen cast her as Adriano(Rienzi) and Grimgerde(Die Walküre). Last season, Ms. Behnke sang Maddalena di Coigny(Andrea Chénier) with NYOF, and made her debut with Chelsea Opera of NYC, on their gala concert featuring works by Verdi and Wagner singing "Der Engel" from Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder. She has sung roles with Analog Arts in an all Wagner Scenes program entitled “Unresolved Desires”. Other roles have included Donna Elvira(Don Giovanni) Diane(Orphée aux enfers), Donna Elvira(Don Giovanni), Countess Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro) and Nella(Gianni Schicchi).
As a soprano soloist in the tri-state area, Jennifer has sung the Brahms Deutsches Requiem with the Central City Chorus and Astoria Symphony and the Duruflé Requiem with the Brearley Singers and West Village Chorale Summersing as well as Handel's Messiah, HWV 56 with the Astoria Symphony and Chorus.
In May 2014, Ms. Behnke performed the US Premier of “Aria di Angelo” by Pawel Lukaszewski, from his oratorio Resurrectio. On the same program, she presented the world premiere of a 3 song sacred cycle for soprano and organ by Aurelio Porfiri entitled "Paschale Gaudium". Maestro Porfiri wrote and dedicated this new work to Jennifer.
Ms. Behnke’s church repertoire is extensive, and in 2008 she was honored to have been chosen to perform “Laudate Dominum” from Mozart's Vesperae solennes de Confessore for His Holiness's invited guests to and lead the congregational singing for Pope Benedict XVI on his visit to New York. The ecumenical service at St. Joseph’s Church, Yorkville in which she sang for the Pope was broadcast live around the world.
Jennifer is an active recitalist, and along with her frequent collaborator Eric Hunter premiered a recital of Debussy, Medtner, and Wagner entitled “The Risk to Blossom”. Their next recital will also include brand new works composed by Mr. Hunter with poetry by Ms. Behnke. In 2004, she made her New York recital debut, singing works by Grieg, Messiaen, and Brahms, as well as performing the New York premiere of Grace & Stir: Three Poems by A.D. Hope by David Evan Thomas.
Jennifer is a native of Highland Lakes, New Jersey and holds degrees from University of Rochester, and Manhattan School of Music.