The American mezzo-soprano, Phyllis Pancella, was born in St. Louis, the third of six children. She has moved only as far away as Chicago (for a stint in the young artist program at Chicago's Lyric Opera) and Kansas City, Mo., where she lives with her opera director husband, Matthew Lana. She was a prizewinner in the 1988 McAllister opera competition and the 1990 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and she won the 1993 Award of Excellence from the Lotos Foundation, under whose auspices she made her New York recital debut that year at Weill Recital Hall.
Lauded for her "lustrous and expressive voice" by the Seattle Times after her performances as Adalgisa in Norma, Phyllis Pancella receives continuous critical acclaim for her artistic versatility, superlative musicianship, and powerful stage presence. A truly accomplished artist, she has appeared on many of the finest international opera, concert, and recital stages in repertoire ranging from the Baroque era to that of the present century. Her career has taken her to opera houses in the USA and abroad. At Glimmerglass Opera in 1996 she sang the title role in Jack Beeson’s Lizzie Borden, which she repeated at New York City Opera in 1999, telecast live on PBS. Her European debut was at the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse, and in the concert hall she has appeared with the National Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and New World symphony orchestras, as well as the Orchestra della Toscana and the Opéra de Lyon. An active recitalist, she has toured with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and appeared with it at Lincoln Center for the New York premiere of Dominick Argento’s Miss Manners on Music, a song cycle composed for her. She made her recording debut as Marcellina in a 1991 release, W.A. Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Daniel Barenboim.
In summer of 2015 Phyllis Pancella sings Marquise in La fille du régiment with Santa Fe Opera. Her engagements for the 2015-2016 season currently include soloist in Gustav Mahler's Kindertotenlieder with Columbia Symphony Orchestra. In 2014-2015 she made her Virginia Opera debut as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, returned to Alabama Symphony as Mother/Witch in Engelbert Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel, and was soloist in Alexander Nevsky with Eugene Symphony Orchestra.
Recent engagements include soloist in J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) with the Hong Kong Bach Choir under Jerome Haberman; a series of chamber recitals with violist Paul Neubauer; singing in the New Music Showcase at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, featuring new work by Ladislav Kubik; her return to Boston Lyric Opera as Despina in Così fan tutte; to Central City Opera as Mrs. Gibbs in Rorem’s Our Town; and soloist in Messiah with Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, under Jane Glover.
Recent highlights include singing as soloist in an evening of J.S. Bach's cantatas (curated by John Harbison) in a return to Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; in Messiah with the Philadelphia Orchestra, under Jane Glover; her return to Music of the Baroque Orchestra and Chorus to sing Sorceress in Dido and Aeneas; to Handel and Haydn Society to sing George Frideric Handel's Dixit Dominus and W.A. Mozart's Requiem (released on the Coro label); to Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra as soloist in G.F. Handel's Messiah (Part One) and J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248); to the Berkshire Choral Festival in works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Edward Elgar, and Johannes Brahms, Robert Page conducting; and singing as soloist in W.A. Mozart's Mass in C Minor with Alabama Symphony.
Phyllis Pancella's many other successes include Dorabella in W.A. Mozart's Così fan tutte with Opera Grand Rapids; singing as soloist in W.A. Mozart's Requiem and a concert featuring works by G.F. Handel, both with Music of the Baroque under Jane Glover; two concerts with the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra; in Messiah with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra; in J.S. Bach's Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) with the Hong Kong Bach Choir; Dejanira in G.F. Handel's Hercules, with Music of the Baroque; soloist in J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, under Paul Goodwin; in Ladia Kubik's Sinfonietta No. 3, “Gong”, with Florida State University’s Festival of New Music; and a return to Central City Opera as the title role in Rinaldo.
Other highlights include a return to Central City Opera to perform the title role in The Rape of Lucretia, Sesto in W.A. Mozart's La clemenza di Tito with Opera Boston, Mrs. Noye in Benjamin Britten's Noye’s Fludde with Los Angeles Opera, and Dolores in the world premiere of Anthony Davis' Wakonda’s Dream with Opera Omaha. Concert appearances included “Opera’s Greatest Hits and Biggest Voices,” a gala concert with Opera Omaha; W.A. Mozart's Requiem with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra; her return to Boston Baroque in Antonio Vivaldi's Juditha Triumphans, singing the role of Holofernes; as soloist in Argento’s Casa Guidi with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra; and a New Year’s Eve concert with the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra.
Internationally, Phyllis Pancella has performed the title role of Georges Bizet's Carmen at the Teatro San Carlo, New Israeli Opera, and English National Opera. In concert she sang B. Britten's Phaedra with the Orchestra della Toscana, Bruno Bartoletti conducting; L.v. Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with Ensemble Orchestral de Paris; and Verdi's Messa per Rossini with Opéra de Lyon. She has also sung with the opera companies of the Bastille and Toulouse.
Phyllis Pancella made her San Francisco Opera debut as Eduige in G.F. Handel's Rodelinda. Recent season highlights included her return to Houston Grand Opera in the title role of Carmen, performances of Rosina in Il barbiere di S with Florida Grand Opera, Isabella in L'italiana in Algeri with Boston Lyric Opera and Connecticut Opera, Nerone in L'incoronazione di Poppea with Central City Opera, Dorabella in Così fan tutte with San Diego Opera, the Secretary in The Consul with Arizona Opera, and her first performances of Dalila in Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila in a staged version presented by the Orquesta Sinfonica de Xalapa.
Other highlights on the operatic stage include Cornelia in a new production of Giulio Cesare under the baton of Patrick Summers with Houston Grand Opera, Fidalma in Il matrimonio segreto with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd with Opera Colorado, Boulotte in Offenbach's Bluebeard with Glimmerglass Opera, Giovanna Seymour in Anna Bolena and Adalgisa in Norma with Pittsburgh Opera, the title role in Offenbach's Grand Duchess of Gerolstein with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Sesto in Giulio Cesare with Florida Grand Opera, Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria with Boston Baroque, and the title role in La Cenerentola with Cincinnati Opera. Robert Spano conducted her performance in John Adam's The Death of Klinghoffer with the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, and Jonathan Miller directed her as Ottavia in L'incoronazione di Poppea at Glimmerglass Opera and Brooklyn Academy of Music. She appeared as Isabella in L'italiana in Algeri, Penelope in Ulisse, and in the title role of Lizzie Borden (broadcast on PBS Great Performances series) at both Glimmerglass Opera and New York City Opera.
On the concert stage, Phyllis Pancella has performed W.A. Mozart's Requiem with the San Diego and Detroit symphonies and the Berkshire Choral Festival under Jane Glover conducting. She joined Boston Baroque for performances of Messiah, Alabama Symphony for Berlioz's Les Nuits d'étè, Utah Symphony Orchestra for G. Mahler's Symphony No. 2, and Chicago's Music of the Baroque for performances of J.S. Bach's Mass in B minor (BWV 232), also under Jane Glover. Other concert highlights include her performances of L.v. Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with the National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin, and the Minnesota Orchestra and Utah Symphony Orchestra; J.S. Bach's Magnificat (BWV 243) with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra; Luciano Berio's Folk Songs and Berlioz's La Mort de Cléopâtre with the New World Symphony Orchestra; W.A. Mozart's Requiem with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (James Conlon conducting); Szymanowski's Stabat Mater with the Milwaukee Symphony; and Messiah with the National Symphony Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra. The mezzo-soprano has presented recitals at the Chicago Cultural Center and at the Schubert Club in St. Paul.
A highly regarded performer of chamber music, Phyllis Pancella joined the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center on a North American tour performing J. Brahms' Songs for Alto, Viola and Piano, Op. 91, and has appeared at Lincoln Center offering the premiere of Argento's Miss Manners on Music, a whimsical song cycle written for her by Judith Martin. She has also appeared with both the Vermeer and New World string quarters and performed with Portland's Chamber Music Northwest and the OK Mozart International Festival.