Praised for “exuding power in every detail of her body language and voice”, mezzo-Soprano Elissa Pfaender was recently named a winner of the 2023 Opera Foundation. In the 2023-24 season she joins the Deutsche Oper Berlin ensemble for Waltraute in Die Walküre and the Secretary in Nixon in China, and also joins the ensemble of Teatro Real where she will be responsible for Maddalena in Rigoletto, Sofia in Halka, Medoro in Orlando, and Neris in Médée. Last season she returned to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis for Mrs. McLean in Susannah, joined Opera north in her role debut as the title role of Carmen. She also sang Zulma and covered the title role in L’Italiana in Algeri with Tulsa Opera, sang Alisa in Lucia di Lammermoor with New York City Opera, and was a Vocal Fellow at the Ravinia Steans Music Institute, under the direction of Kevin Murphy, which concluded with a solo performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in their “Tchaikovsky Spectacular,” under the baton of George Stelluto.
As an Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Gerdine Young Artist, she created the role of Dr. Landau in the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s Awakenings, where she was praised for her “mellifluous mezzo…and chest tones of chilling power,” (Operatoday.com). Additionally, she sang Third Lady in Die Zauberflöte, and covered the title role of Carmen. With New York City Opera, she covered the roles of Mama and Signora Olga in the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis and also frequently performs with the company as a featured soloist in concerts in Bryant Park and Central Park.
Ms. Pfaender has also been a young artist with the Savannah Voice Festival, under the direction of Sherrill Milnes, Manchester Music Festival, Sarasota Opera, The National Endowment for the Arts YoungArts Foundation. During her tenure with Sarasota Opera, Ms. Pfaender was awarded the prestigious “ Anne J. O’Donnell Outstanding Apprentice Artist Award” by the Sarasota Opera Guild for her talent, skills and musicianship. Ms. Pfaender’s has been the recipient of many awards from The Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition, The Gerda Lissner Foundation, The Opera Foundation, The NEA YoungArts Foundation, The National Opera Association, and The Orpheus National Music Competition. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and her Master of Music from Westminster Choir College.
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