KAREN PARKS, soprano
Karen Parks, a native of Greenville, South Carolina, was chosen out of her school chorus at the age of 13 for special training at The Fine Arts Center. Her music education eventually resulted in her receiving a Bachelor of Music Degree in Vocal Performance from Furman University, a Master of Music Degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Texas at Austin and post graduate studies in Vocal Performance and Vocal Pedagogy at the University of California at Santa Barbara. She was also awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for Voice, which enabled her to study exclusively with Maestro Gabriele Pisani at the prestigious La Scala Opera House in Milan, Italy. From there, she was asked to join the San Francisco Opera, where she toured the role of Micaela in Bizet’s Carmen. She was also invited to perform the role of Nedda in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci for three seasons in the Castle at The Savonlinna Opera Festival in Savonlinna, Finland. She has performed in major opera houses and concert halls in many European countries including Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, England, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Hungary and Estonia. Her performances in America include many debuts with recognized orchestras and conductors including Carnegie Recital Hall, Alice Tully Hall, The Kennedy Center, Meyerson Hall, San Francisco Opera and The Boston Pops. Other roles and works with various companies and orchestras include Verdi’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Mahler’s Second Symphony, Dvorak’s Te Deum, Bach’s Magnificat, Handel’s Messiah, Marenka in Smetana’s The Bartered Bride and the role of Harriet Tubman in two different operas (Harriet and Frederick Douglass). By special commission, she was the first artist to record an English language album (Nocturne) of Finnish classical music from Finnish poetry.
In addition to being a Fulbright scholar, Ms. Parks is also a member of Phi Kappa Phi national academic honor society and Mu Phi Epsilon. She is the recipient of the Cadeau Foundation Grant, which she used for study with renowned soprano Renata Scotto. Having won the Puccini Competition, Ms. Parks was granted a New York City performance at Alice Tully Hall and mentored by the great soprano, Licia Albanese for many years.
Parks has also graced the London Broadway stage, making her debut as Cindy Lou (Micaela) in the West End production of Carmen Jones, Oscar Hammerstein’s reworking of Bizet’s opera Carmen. Her performance in that production resulted in the nomination for an Olivier Award. Soon thereafter she sang the world premiere of Heikki Sarmanto's Perfect Harmony, which was televised and aired internationally. Her notable recordings include Song of America on Thirty Tigers, Carmen Jones on EMI, Perfect Harmony on Time Warner, Opera Ebony Sings Spirituals on Ebony Classics Records, Symphony of Spirituals on Naxos Records, Handel’s Messiah, I Hear Music In The Air, and four solo recordings Nobody Knows: Songs of Harry T. Burleigh, Journeys of the Heart, Nocturne and Spiritually Yours, A Private Collection.
She is also a renowned voice teacher and performs Master Classes worldwide. Ms. Parks established Ottimavoce, Inc. (a studio, production and recording company). She also owns and operates The Studio for Vocal Refinement (a private voice studio).
Karen Parks released the CD titled Nobody Knows: Songs of Harry T. Burleigh on February 5, 2008. She launched the CD with a national tour, beginning January 31, 2008.