Susanna Phillips, soprano

Susanna Phillips interview

Alabama-born soprano Susanna Phillips, recipient of The Metropolitan Opera’s 2010 Beverly Sills Artist Award, continues to establish herself as one of today’s most sought-after singing actors and recitalists. The 2013-14 season sees Ms. Phillips return to The Metropolitan Opera for a sixth consecutive season. Starring roles with the company include Fiordiligi in  Cosí¬ fan tutte, under the baton of returning music director James Levine, Rosalinde in a new staging of Strauss’s Die Fledermaus as part of the annual New Year’s Eve gala, and Musetta in La Bohème, a reprise of the role in which she made her house debut in 2008.

Susanna Phillips’ 2013-14 orchestral engagements include Fauré’s Requiem with Charles Dutoit and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra as well as with the Philadelphia Orchestra where it shares the program with Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas brasileiras No. 5 with Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Phillips also joins the St. Louis Symphony to sing Ellen Orford in a concert performance of Peter Grimes, under David Robertson, at Carnegie Hall on Britten’s 100th birthday and in St Louis. Other orchestral engagements include Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Milwaukee Symphony and Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with the Jacksonville Symphony.

In recital, Ms. Phillips is joined by bass-baritone Eric Owens at both Chicago’s Symphony Center and the Gilmore Festival for a program of Schubert lieder. Chamber music engagements include performances with Paul Neubauer and Anne Marie McDermott in a trio concert tour that culminates at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Last season, Ms. Phillips sang Donna Anna in Don Giovanni at the Met and returned to Carnegie Hall for a special concert performance as Stella in Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire opposite Renee Fleming–a role she went on to perform, to rave reviews, at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Other operatic highlights included her return to Santa Fe Opera as the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, and a concert production of Idomeneo at the Ravinia Festival. Orchestral appearances included collaborations with the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Alabama, and St. Louis, and with the Oratorio Society of New York. She also made her solo recital debut at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall with pianist Myra Huang.

In 2011-12, Phillips sang Musetta at the Met; sang the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor at Chicago’s Lyric Opera and the Minnesota Opera; and made her European debut as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte at the Gran Teatro del Liceu Barcelona. In concert, she appeared with the St. Louis Symphony, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and Santa Fe Concert Association, while the release of Paysages, her first solo album on Bridge Records, was hailed as “sumptuous and elegantly sung” (San Francisco Chronicle).

Highlights of Phillips’ previous seasons include numerous additional Metropolitan Opera appearances: as Pamina in Julie Taymor’s celebrated production of The Magic Flute, Musetta in La Bohème (both in New York and on tour in Japan), and she was a featured artist in the Met’s Summer Recital Series in Central Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park. She made her Santa Fe Opera debut as Pamina, and subsequently performed a trio of other Mozart roles there: Fiordiligi in Cosí¬ fan tutte, Countess Almaviva in Figaro, and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. Phillips made two appearances with Boston Lyric Opera and three with Opera Birmingham. She portrayed Adina in Lyric’s L’elisir d’amore, and, as a participant in the company’s Ryan Opera Center, sang the female leads in Roméo et Juliette and Die Fledermaus. Phillips made her Minnesota Opera debut in the notoriously challenging role of Elmira in Tim Albery’s production of Reinhard Keiser’s The Fortunes of King Croesus, and later sang Euridice there opposite David Daniels in Orfeo ed Euridice. Phillips has also played Mozart’s Countess with the Dallas Opera and Donna Anna with the Fort Worth Opera Festival.

In August 2011, Phillips was featured at the opening night of the Mostly Mozart Festival, which aired live on PBS’s Live From Lincoln Center. She was a resident artist at the 2010 and 2011 Marlboro Music Festivals, was part of Marilyn Horne Foundation Gala at Carnegie Hall, made her New York solo recital debut at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, and has appeared at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC (under the auspices of the Vocal Arts Society). Her ever-expanding concert repertoire has been showcased with many prestigious organizations: she performed with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic under Alan Gilbert; sung in Mozart’s Mass in C minor with the Chicago Symphony; and taken part in Beethoven’s Mass in C major and Choral Fantasy at Carnegie Hall with Kent Tritle and the Oratorio Society of New York. Phillips has sung Dvorák’s Stabat Mater with the Santa Fe Symphony, Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem with the Santa Barbara Symphony, and Wolf’s Spanisches Liederbuch at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall. Other recent concert and oratorio engagements include Carmina Burana, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, Mozart’s Coronation Mass, the Fauré and Mozart requiems, and Handel’s Messiah. She made her Carnegie Hall debut with Skitch Henderson, Rob Fisher, and the New York Pops. Following her Baltimore Symphony Orchestra debut under Marin Alsop, the Baltimore Sun proclaimed: “She’s the real deal.”

Phillips had a magnificent 2005, winning four of the world’s leading vocal competitions: Operalia (both First Place and the Audience Prize), the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the MacAllister Awards, and the George London Foundation Awards Competition. She has also claimed the top honor at the Marilyn Horne Foundation Competition, and she won first prizes from the American Opera Society Competition and the Musicians Club of Women in Chicago.  Philips has received grants from the Santa Fe Opera and the Sullivan Foundation, and is a graduate of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama and raised in Huntsville, Susanna Phillips is grateful for the ongoing support of her community in her career. She sang Strauss’s Four Last Songs and gave her first concert performances in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor with the Huntsville Symphony, and returns frequently to her native state for recitals and orchestral appearances. Over 400 people traveled from Huntsville to New York City in December 2008 for Phillips’ Metropolitan Opera debut in La Bohème. In 2010, she returned the favor, co-founding Twickenham Fest, Alabama’s only annual summer chamber music festival, in Huntsville.