Bold. Brave. Brilliant.

Tucson Desert Song Festival

Susanna Phillips

Soprano January 31, 2023

Alabama-born soprano Susanna Phillips is a recipient of the Metropolitan Opera’s 2010 Beverly Sills Artist Award. Known for her sparkling portrayal of Musetta in La Bohème, Phillips has sung at the Met for 12 consecutive seasons in the roles of Musetta, Pamina, Donna Anna, Rosalinde, Antonia/Stella, Micaëla, Donna Elvira, and most recently as Countess Almaviva, a role very close to her heart. Role highlights at the Met include Fiordigili, which the New York Times called a “breakthrough night,” and Clémence in the Met premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s L’amour de Loin. Phillips was also a featured artist in the Met’s Summer Recital Series.

In 2005, Phillips won 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 has won first prizes from the American Opera Society Competition and the Musicians Club of Women in Chicago. Phillips 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. She holds both a Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degree from the Juilliard School.

Recently, Phillips paid tribute to to Clara Schumann at the Library of Congress and collaborated with Jane Glover for Handel’s Messiah and Rival Divas program with Music of the Baroque. A frequent soloist at Carnegie Hall, Phillips has performed the Brahms German Requiem with the Oratorio Society of New York and participated in a concert staging as Stella in Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire opposite Renée Fleming–a role Phillips went on to perform, to rave reviews, at Lyric Opera of Chicago. She has also performed with the Gran Teatro del Liceu as Pamina, Cincinnati Opera as Countess Almaviva, and the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in her role and company debut as Birdie in Blitzstein’s Regina with Susan Graham. She sang Ellen Orford in Peter Grimes with the St. Louis Symphony in St. Louis and Carnegie Hall.

Highly in demand by the world’s most prestigious orchestras, Phillips has appeared with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic under Alan Gilbert, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, Gulbenkian Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Atlanta Symphony, La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest, Boston Baroque, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and her native Huntsville Symphony, where she celebrated the bicentennial of Alabama performing Strauss’s Four Last Songs.

Phillips is dedicated to oratorio works with credits including Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Mahler’s Second and Fourth symphonies, Mozart’s “Coronation” Mass, the Fauré and Mozart Requiems, and Carmina Burana. An avid chamber music collaborator, she co-founded Twickenham Fest, a chamber music festival in her native Huntsville, Alabama alongside bassoonist and Huntsville native Matthew McDonald. In 2019, the festival celebrated its 10th anniversary of chamber music with more than 10 concerts ranging from a children’s program, to a late-night Bach concert, and Philip Lasser’s Colors of Feeling.

In summer 2021, Phillips returned to Santa Fe Opera for the world premiere of The Lord of Cries by John Corigliano. She is a native of Huntsville, Alabama, and more than 400 people traveled from her hometown to New York City in December 2008 for her Met Opera debut in La Bohème. She returns frequently to her native state for recitals and orchestral appearances.

Headshot of pianist Christopher Cano with Arizona Opera

Christopher Cano

Piano January 31, 2023

A seasoned recitalist, orchestra soloist and collaborative pianist, Christopher Cano has performed throughout the US, Mexico, Israel, Europe and the Far East.

Having maintained his private studio in New York City since 2002, Cano has prepared singers for appearances at the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Chicago Lyric Opera, and orchestral appearances with the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, and the Berlin Philharmonic among others.

As a collaborative artist, he has played in the masterclasses of Licia Albanese, Fedora Barbieri, Anna Moffo, Lauren Flannigan, Martin Katz, Craig Rutenberg, and Suzanne Mentzer. Cano has also played for the masterclasses of Marilyn Horne in New York City at Carnegie Hall. As a studio pianist, Cano has had the distinct privilege of working with some of the great artists and teachers of singing including Marilyn Horne, Sherrill Milnes, Luciano Pavarotti, Marni Nixon, Patricia McCaffrey, Joan Patenaude-Yarnell, Rita Shane and Diana Soviero.

Cano has been a member of the music staff at the Festival Lyrique-en-Mer in Belle-Ile, France, Toledo Opera, San Diego Opera, Utah Festival Opera, Opera Company of North Carolina, Florida Grand Opera, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, among others.

Beginning with the 2017/18 Season, Cano was appointed as the Director of the Marion Roose Pullin Opera Studio and Head of Music of Arizona Opera.

Headshot of opera baritone singer Justin Austin with The Tucson Desert Song Festival

Justin Austin

February 9, 2023

Praised in Opera News as “a gentle actor and elegant musician” and The Wall Street Journal for his “mellifluous baritone,” Drama Desk Award-nominated baritone Justin Austin has been performing professionally since age 4. Born in Stuttgart, Germany to professional opera singer parents, Austin began his singing career as a boy soprano performing at venues such as Teatro Real, Bregenzer Festspiele, Lincoln Center, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. While working with directors such as Götz Friedrich and Tazewell Thompson, Austin was able to realize his love for music and performance early on.

For the 2021/22 season Austin made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Marcellus in the company premiere of Hamlet by Brett Dean. Austin also made his debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago singing the leading role of Charles Blow in Fire Shut Up In My Bones by Terrance Blanchard. Austin starred as George Armstrong in the return of Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage and Ricky Ian Gordon at Lincoln Center Theater. He made his return to the New York Festival of Song for its debut concert at Little Island in New York City.

As a multifaceted musician, he performs a wide range of repertoire from jazz, R&B and musical theater to opera and oratorio. Austin has collaborated with multiple groups and artists such as Aretha Franklin, the Boys Choir of Harlem, Mary J. Blige, Elton John, Lauryn Hill, The Roots, 30 Seconds to Mars, John Cale, Ricky Ian Gordon, Damien Sneed, Kanye West, and jazz legends Reggie Workman, Hugh Masekela and Wynton Marsalis.

Austin strongly believes in using his artistry to benefit music programs, new music projects and community services around the world. To do so, he works with organizations such as MEND (Meeting Emergency Needs with Dignity), QSAC (Quality Services for the Autism Community), Holt International, and St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital to design and perform benefit concerts. Inspired by the importance of new music and collaboration, he has performed and recorded operatic, song, and oratorio world premieres by Wynton Marsalis, Avner Finberg, M. Roger Holland, Jack Perla, Peter Andreacchi, Damien Sneed, Odeline de la Martinez and Ricky Ian Gordon.

Headshot of opera soprano singer Angel Blue with The Tucson Desert Song Festival

Angel Blue

April 1, 2023

Grammy winning-opera singer Angel Blue has emerged in recent seasons as one of the most important sopranos before the public today. She has taken the opera world by storm with historic performances as Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata. Despite being told it would never happen, Blue was the first black woman to ever sing the fully staged role in Italy at Teatro alla Scala in 2019.

She opened the Metropolitan Opera’s 2019/2020 season as Bess in a new production of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. These performances followed her internationally praised French opera debut and role debut as Floria Tosca at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in July of 2019. She has been praised for performances in many other theaters, such as the Vienna State Opera, Semperoper Dresden, San Francisco Opera, Seattle Opera, Theater an der Wien, Oper Frankfurt, and San Diego Opera. Also active on the concert platform, she has appeared in recital and in concert in more than 35 countries.

Headshot of opera soprano singer Fatima Said with The Tucson Desert Song Festival

Fatima Said

April 6, 2023

At the age of 14 Fatma Said embarked on a musical journey that would take her from her home in Cairo to the Academy of Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists and ultimately to the world’s most prestigious concert and opera stages. As an exclusive Warner Recording Artist she released her debut album, El Nour, in 2020 to much critical acclaim, winning numerous awards including the Gramophone Classical Music Award for Best Song Album, the BBC Music Magazine’s Vocal Award as well as Germany’s Opus Klassik.

Said took her first singing lessons in Cairo with soprano Neveen Allouba and later studied opera singing at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler with Professor Renate Faltin. Said subsequently was awarded a scholarship to study at the Accademia del Teatro alla Scala in Milan, becoming the first Egyptian soprano to perform on this iconic stage. In Milan she sang–among numerous other roles–Pamina in a new Peter Stein production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, after which the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung heralded, “The flawless, radiant Fatma Said as Pamina is a discovery.”