Hailed for possessing a voice of extraordinary beauty, a seamless legato and great dramatic depth, American soprano Karen Slack has garnered international renown for her artistic versatility, charisma and entrepreneurial endeavors. A recipient of the 2022 Sphinx Medal of Excellence, Slack is known for her dynamic and passionate performances in both lead operatic roles and on the concert stage; as a sought-after collaborator, curator, and artistic advisor; and for her ground-breaking approach to engagement. She is an Artistic Advisor for Portland Opera, Co-Chair of the Women’s Opera Network with Opera America, and serves on the board of the American Composer’s Orchestra. In January 2022, Slack was appointed Creative Partner with Brooklyn’s National Sawdust, opening with a solo recital and continuing through multiple programs throughout the season.
Highlights of Slack’s 2022-2023 season include her debut with The Dallas Opera as Freia in Das Rheingold; the world premiere of Shawn Okpebholo’s Songs in Flight, developed by Sparks & Wiry Cries, alongside singer and multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Kimmel Centert; performances in Austin and Portland with the Miró Quartet, and in Cincinnati and Albany with the Pacifica Quartet; a recital in Fort Worth with pianist Michelle Cann and at Cal Poly Arts with organist Alan Morrison; performing as featured soloist with the Nashville Symphony and Oklahoma City Philharmonic in two different world premieres by Hannibal Lokumbe; Beethoven’s Egmont at Carnegie Hall with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra; Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Fresno Philharmonic; and titled roles in productions at Portland Opera and Edmonton Opera. She also continues her roles as Artistic Advisor for Portland Opera and Co-Chair of the Women’s Opera Network with Opera America.
Karen Slack has appeared with the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera, and San Francisco Opera in featured roles such as Alice Ford in Falstaff, Leonora in Il trovatore, Tosca with Arizona Opera, as Aïda at Austin Opera, Emelda Griffith in Champion with New Orleans Opera, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Nashville Opera, Violetta in La Traviata with Sacramento Opera and Sister Rose in Dead Man Walking with Minnesota, Atlanta, and Vancouver Opera. She made her Scottish Opera debut as Anna in Puccini’s Le villi. Slack made her film debut portraying a featured role as the Opera Diva in Tyler Perry’s movie and soundtrack For Colored Girls.
Her 2021-2022 season featured debut performances with Houston Grand Opera in the world premiere of Joel Thompson and Andrea Davis Pinkney’s A Snowy Day, the title role in Aïda at Opera Carolina, recitals at Atlanta’s Spivey Hall, performances as featured soloist with Symphony of the Americas and in Derek Geter’s Justice Symphony with The Washington Chorus, her solo recital Of Thee I Sing at National Sawdust, and the May 2022 world premiere of a new work by James Lee III, written for her collaboration with the Pacifica Quartet and presented by Carnegie Hall and the Shriver Hall Concert Series.
During the 2020-2021 season, Slack drew on her experience in film to expand her artistic platform through premiere digital performances with Houston Grand Opera, Madison Opera, and Minnesota Opera, taking on a starring role in Driving While Black with urbanarias and launching her digital talk show, #kikikonversations, which garnered critical acclaim from both Opera News and The New York Times. She was also Co-Director for the 2020-21 Opera Program at the Banff Centre for the Performing Arts. Additionally, Slack became a sought-after collaborator to create bespoke content for the digital concert stage, co-creating and performing in #saytheirnames – Women of the Movement, a film recital and production in partnership with Philadelphia’s Lyric Fest, performed in recital for Opera Philadelphia, and was the featured vocalist alongside actor/narrator Liev Schreiber in Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s Speaking Truth to Power program, presented in October 2020 and hosted by livestream platform Idagio.
Slack’s 2019-2020 season included a return to The Metropolitan Opera as Serena in Porgy and Bess, her debut with Opera Theatre of St. Louis originating the role of Billie in the world premiere of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, a recital with Opera Philadelphia, performing as guest soloist for Madison Opera’s virtual Opera in the Park, and a series of recitals throughout the US including the Vilar Center for the Performing Arts in Vail, Colorado with pianist Joe Illick. In concert, she was a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra in the world premiere of Hannibal Lokumbe’s Healing Tones with conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Union Symphony Orchestra for Wagner’s Wesendonk Lieder.
Equally at home on the concert stage, Slack has performed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder, and the Verdi Requiem with various orchestras throughout the United States, and was featured in her first performances of Chausson’s Poème de l’amour et la mer with the Omaha Symphony in collaboration with Opera Omaha. Abroad she has appeared with the Melbourne Symphony, Sydney Symphony, the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestras, and most recently, with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic in celebration of the 80th birthday of conductor Yuri Temirkanov. She made her Carnegie Hall debut as Agnes Sorel in Tchaikovsky’s Maid of Orleans with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.
A graduate of the Adler Fellowship and Merola Opera Program at the San Francisco Opera, the native Philadelphian is also a graduate of the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music. Karen Slack is a winner of numerous competitions and awards: most notably the Montserrat Caballé International Competition, Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, George London Foundation Award, Marian Anderson ICON Award, Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, Rosa Ponselle International Vocal Competition, Portland Opera Lieber Award, Liederkranz Foundation Award and the Jose Iturbi International Competition for Voice.