A noted interpreter of Mozart and bel canto repertoire as well as Benjamin Britten and many of today’s living composers, Keith Phares is regarded as one of his generation’s most versatile artists.
Engagements this season have included Dandini in La cenerentola with Tulsa Opera; Charlie in Three Decembers with Des Moines Metro Opera; the Count in Le nozze di Figaro with New Orleans Opera; John Sorel in The Consul with Florida Grand Opera; and the world premiere of The Scarlet Ibis with the Prototype Festival. Future engagements include Zurga in Les pêcheurs de perles with Seattle Opera; and Charlie in Three Decembers with Florentine Opera.
Recent engagements have included Orin Mannion in Mourning Becomes Electra with Florida Grand Opera; the title role in Elmer Gantry with Tulsa Opera; Maxmillian in Candide with São Paulo Symphony Orchestra; Marcello in La bohème with Manitoba Opera James Halligan in the premiere of Eric Sawyer’s The Garden of Martyrs; the title role in Der Kaiser von Atlantis in a joint production with Central City Opera and Colorado Symphony; Marcello in La bohème in his debut with Seattle Opera; and The Father in the premiere of Gregory Spears’ Paul’s Case with UrbanArias.
In previous seasons, the baritone sang Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro with Opera Colorado; returned to Washington National Opera as Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia; joined Opera Hamilton as Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus; Portland Opera as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte; and Central City Opera as Charlie in Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers. His recent concert engagements include San Francisco Symphony, Virginia Symphony and Columbus Symphony for performances of Carmina Burana.
For his debut with Florentine Opera, he portrayed the title role in Elmer Gantry, prompting Opera News to write that “Keith Phares’s scrupulously rendered Elmer Gantry appears a strong contender for iconographic recognition. Beautifully vocalized and bursting with charismatic smarm (think Burt Lancaster with buttery legato), Phares’s achievement will prove a difficult act to follow.” A live recording of this performance is now available from Naxos records. Alongside Grammy awards for Best Contemporary Classical Composition and Best Engineering – Classical, it was been named Opera News’ #1 Opera Recording of 2011.
During the 2008 – 09 season Mr. Phares made his San Francisco Opera debut in the company’s premiere of Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers, singing opposite Frederica von Stade. His performance was praised for his “rich, accurate voice; good looks; and fine acting ability to the part of Charlie, making his performance the highlight of the production.” (San Francisco Classical Voice) Additional house debuts that season included the Opera Company of Philadelphia, where he played the role of Haly in L’italiana in Algeri; and Glimmerglass Opera where he played Dandini in a new production of La cenerentola. In addition, he sang Falke in
Opera New Jersey’s presentation of Die Fledermaus; Kaiser Overall in Ullmann’s Der Kaiser von Atlantis at the Greenwich Music Festival; and Ned Keene in Peter Grimes with Washington National Opera. The Washington Post remarked of his performance that he “sang with a marvelous frank lyricism as Ned Keene.” He also offered a recital under the auspices of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.
Mr. Phares made his Houston Grand Opera debut during the 2007 – 08 season under the direction of Patrick Summers in the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s Last Acts (Three Decembers); and returned to the stage of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in a new production of Martín y Soler’s Una cosa rara. Continuing his commitment to bring the works of living composers to the stage, he sang the title role of Elmer Gantry, by Robert Aldridge, in a co-production with Nashville Opera and Montclair State University. Mr. Phares offered Five Movements for My Father in a program of chamber music by Susan Kander at Weill Hall in New York – his performance coinciding with the commercial release of this work on the Loosecans Music label.
Operatic highlights of recent seasons include his Metropolitan Opera debut, under the baton of James Levine, in the French triple-bill Parade; performances of The Pilot in the Francesca Zambello production of The Little Prince at New York City Opera and Boston Lyric Opera; Maurice Bendrix in Jake Heggie’s The End of the Affair with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Madison Opera; Harlequin in Ariadne auf Naxos at the Dallas Opera; Chou-En Lai in Portland Opera’s presentation of Nixon in China; Danilo in The Merry Widow in a return engagement at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City; Masetto in the acclaimed Günter Krämer production of Don Giovanni at the Spoleto Festival USA; and Sebastian in the North American premiere of Thomas Adès’ The Tempest presented by the Santa Fe Opera in a new production by Jonathan Kent and conducted by Alan Gilbert.
Additional credits of note include Billy Budd at Washington National Opera; Sweeney Todd, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, and Die tote Stadt all at New York City Opera; Don Pasquale, La cenerentola, and The Mikado for Arizona Opera; Faust and Cold Sassy Tree with Utah Opera; Beatrice and Benedict at Santa Fe Opera; The End of the Affair at Madison Opera; and Così fan tutte and Il barbiere di Siviglia at Boston Lyric Opera. With Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, he has been seen as Charles Lindbergh in Loss of Eden by Cary John Franklin; and as Pip in Miss Havisham’s Fire by Dominick Argento.
Concert highlights include Béatrice et Bénédict with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Sir Colin Davis; Candide with the San Francisco Symphony and Patrick Summers; Gerald Barry’s The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit with Thomas Adès and the Los Angeles Philharmonic; and a program of Rogers and Hammerstein songs with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. He also has been honored to be affiliated for many seasons with the Marilyn Horne Foundation, under whose auspices he has appeared in numerous recitals and master classes throughout the United States.
A graduate of the Juilliard Opera Center, he was a national winner of the 1998 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and a finalist in the 1999 Eleanor McCollum Competition of the Houston Grand Opera. He also has been recognized with a Richard Gaddes Grant from the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and the 2000 Richard F. Gold Career Grant from the Juilliard School of Music.