Biography

Photo by Jeannie Liautaud

Soprano Karen Kanakis is hailed for her fine vocal technique and dramatic flair. Her bright-timbered, powerful voice conveys rich emotion, displays brilliant agility, and soars to a thrilling high extension, making her ideal in both the bel canto repertoire and that of the Italian spinto soprano. Critics have called her singing “strong and smoothly superb,” “drop-dead gorgeous,” and “engaging,” and said she “lights up the stage... timing and expressions were priceless,” and “her voice and her stage presence are a delight.” Of her 2020 role debut as Minnie in La Fanciulla del West, critics said “her powerful voice easily penetrates the incredible wall of sound generated by the orchestra.” 

In 2022, Ms. Kanakis returned to the stage at Union Avenue Opera as Alice Ford in Falstaff, and made her role debut as Magda in Puccini’s La Rondine with Winter Opera Saint Louis. Her portrayal of Magda earned her a second nomination for "Outstanding Achievement in Opera" from the St. Louis Theatre Circle, having previously been nominated in 2020 for her turn as Minnie in La Fanciulla del West.

Previous seasons have included the title role in Puccini’s Suor Angelica and Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus, both with Winter Opera Saint Louis, the soprano soloist in the Verdi Requiem with the Missouri Symphony, Anna in Nabucco with Union Avenue Opera, the soprano soloist in the Missouri Symphony annual holiday concert, “A Symphony of Toys,” and a series of recitals in Missouri and Illinois sponsored by St. Louis Art Song. Additional  operatic credits include Giorgetta in Il tabarro, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Countess Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, and Violetta in La traviata

Kanakis with baritone Jacob Lassetter. Photo by Jeannie Liautaud.

Ms. Kanakis has been a featured soloist with symphony organizations performing the Verdi Requiem, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Brahms’ Ein Deutches Requiem, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Handel’s Messiah, both the Mozart and FaureĢ Requiem, and Orff’s Carmina Burana. She is a frequently sought-after solo recitalist, and made her Carnegie Hall debut in the Weill Recital Hall performing a joint program with her husband, baritone Jacob Lassetter. An enthusiastic performer of modern compositions, she was the American Tourist in the 2017 World Premiere of Borgia Infami, Ingram in Eric Chasalow’s The Puzzlemaster, and can be heard on American composer Brooke Joyce’s CD “Waves of Stone” on the Innova label. 

A regional finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Ms. Kanakis performed as an Apprentice Artist with both the Des Moines Metro Opera and the Utah Festival Opera Company, where she was a featured soloist on many orchestral concerts and on a “Music and the Spoken Word” television broadcast performing “Hear ye, Israel” from Elijah at the Salt Lake City Mormon Tabernacle. She was a faculty performer during the Bassi Brugnatelli Symposium in Robbiate, Italy, in the summers of 2016 & 2017 performing the soprano solos in Mendelssohn’s Elijah and numerous concerts of operatic excerpts.