About Karen Slack
Known for performances that “ripped the audience’s hearts out” (Opera News), Karen Slack is “not only one of the nation's most celebrated sopranos, but a leading voice in changing and making spaces in classical music” (Trilloquy).
A recipient of the 2022 Sphinx Medal of Excellence, Slack is a sought-after collaborator, curator, and artistic advisor known for her fiery charisma and ground-breaking approach to engagement. She is an Artistic Advisor for Portland Opera, serves on the board of the American Composers Orchestra and Astral Artists, and holds a faculty position at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Alberta, Canada.
Slack debuted the role of Billie in the 2019 world premiere of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones and made her film debut portraying the Opera Diva in Tyler Perry’s movie and soundtrack For Colored Girls.
Highlights of Slack’s 2023-2024 season include her solo debut with the New York Philharmonic, performing Beethoven’s Ah, Perfido! Op. 65 at David Geffen Hall, and her debut as a guest artist with Chamber Music Detroit, where she will give masterclasses and headline two programs: performing as a soloist in Of Thee I Sing, curated by Slack as a call for racial justice and an appeal to the healing power of love, and appearing alongside the Pacifica Quartet in works by Beethoven, Price, and James Lee III – whose featured work, A Double Standard, was commissioned for Slack and the Quartet by Carnegie Hall, Chamber Music Detroit, and Shriver Concert Series. In conjunction with Sparks and Wiry Cries, she performs in two productions of Songs in Flight, composer Shawn Okpebholo’s program exploring the stories of enslaved people who fled captivity, and she returns to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for selections from the Great American Songbook. Slack returns to Bogotá, Colombia for a recital at the Festival Internacional de Música Sacra Bogotá and continues her deep collaboration with the Pacifica Quartet later this season with performances presented by Denver Friends of Chamber Music.
In addition to her appearances on orchestral, chamber music, and recital stages this season, Slack embarks upon an ambitious new recording project in collaboration with ONEComposer and pianist Michelle Cann, to be released later this season on Azica Records. In August 2024, Slack unveils her new commissioning project African Queens, an evening-length vocal recital of new art songs celebrating the history and legacy of seven African queens, revered as rulers but not widely heralded in the western world. The program weaves this historical narrative through new works by acclaimed composers Jasmine Barnes, Damien Geter, Jessie Montgomery, Shawn Okpebholo, Dave Ragland, Carlos Simon, and Joel Thompson along with carefully selected traditional repertoire – further illuminated through passages of spoken text and thematic artwork.
Over recent seasons, Slack has amassed a body of work reflecting her dedication to premiering works by living composers, with particular focus on using her platform to elevate works by Black artists. During the 2022-2023 season, she premiered Songs in Flight at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and appeared in two separate world premieres by Hannibal Lokumbe, performing as a soloist with the Nashville Symphony (The Jonah People) and Oklahoma City Philharmonic (Trials, Tears, Transcendence: The Journey of Clara Luper). She premiered Jasmine Barnes’ Songs of Paul, a tribute to Paul Robeson, with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and was featured soloist in the premiere of Damien Geter’s Justice Symphony with the Fresno Symphony and The Washington Chorus. Slack made her Houston Grand Opera debut in the world premiere of Joel Thompson and Andrea Davis Pinkney's A Snowy Day and, in January 2022, was appointed Creative Partner with Brooklyn’s National Sawdust.
When the pandemic limited live performances during the 2020-2021 season, Slack made premiere digital performances with Houston Grand Opera, Madison Opera, and Minnesota Opera. She also starred in a new production of the opera Driving While Black, presented by UrbanArias, and launched a digital talk show, #kikikonversations, drawing acclaim from Opera News and The New York Times. She co-created and performed in #saytheirnames – Women of the Movement, a film recital and production in partnership with Philadelphia’s Lyric Fest, performed in recital for Opera Philadelphia. Appearing alongside actor/narrator Liev Schreiber, she was featured in Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s Speaking Truth to Power program, hosted by livestream platform Idagio.
Slack recently appeared in the role of Freia in Das Rheingold with the Dallas Opera and sang the title role in Aïda at Opera Carolina. She has performed on the stages of the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera, Scottish Opera, San Francisco Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Austin Opera, New Orleans Opera, Minnesota Opera, Vancouver Opera, Edmonton Opera, Sacramento Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Madison Opera, and Arizona Opera, among others.
AS AIDA IN AIDA
WITH AUSTIN LYRIC OPERA - 2015
Equally at home on the concert stage, Slack has performed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, Strauss’s Vier Letzte Lieder, and the Verdi Requiem with various orchestras throughout the United States. She 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, and Bergen Philharmonic Orchestras, as well as with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic in celebration of the 80th birthday of conductor Yuri Temirkanov. Slack made her Carnegie Hall debut as Agnes Sorel in Tchaikovsky’s Maid of Orleans with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. She performed as 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.
A native Philadelphian, Slack is a graduate of the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music, as well as the Adler Fellowship and the Merola Opera Program at the San Francisco Opera. She is the 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. For more information, please visit www.sopranokarenslack.com