Wanda Brister (born August 12, 1957) is an American operatic mezzo-soprano and voice teacher.
Born in Houma, Louisiana, she has appeared throughout the Americas, as well as Europe. She matriculated at Loyola University of the South, where she made her unofficial debut in 1978 as Maddalena in act 4 of Rigoletto, opposite Anthony Laciura as the Duke of Mantua and Greer Grimsley as Sparafucile. Two years later, she sang the Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica at Loyola. She holds degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Louisiana, Lafayette.
She served as an apprentice at the New Orleans Opera Association (where she made her professional debut in 1981 as Mistress Benson in Lakmé) before attending the Academy of Vocal Arts, Philadelphia, where she then was an apprentice with the Opera Company of Philadelphia. She completed a Doctor of Musical Arts at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she studied with vocal repertoire scholar Carol Kimball. Her dissertation topic was "The Songs of Madeleine Dring."
Brister studied under Nell Rankin, Beverly Wolff, and Enrico Di Giuseppe. She has also appeared with the Opera Orchestra of New York, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Baltimore Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, New York Opera Ensemble, Annapolis Opera, Pittsburgh Opera Theater, Connecticut Grand Opera, New England Lyric Operetta, Jefferson Performing Arts Society, Lyric Opera of Waco, Shreveport Opera, etc, and orchestras in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Louisiana, Florida, Arizona, West Virginia, and New Hampshire. She has sung over 200 recitals in forty-three states and festivals in Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, England, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and the Ukraine.
She has made several recordings including: Strauss Waltzes for Singing, (Arabesque with New York Vocal Arts Ensemble), Clarikinetics; Landscapes I: The Music of Daniel Baldwin; Landscapes II; Trio Vocalise: Music for Voice, Bassoon, and Piano; (all on Mark Records). Her solo discs include: The Songs of Madeleine Dring with tenor Stanford Olsen, and Le premier matin du monde, both on Cambria Records.
She has appeared as soloist at Carnegie Hall on seven occasions, and has sung under the batons of Krzysztof Penderecki, Michael Tilson Thomas, John Rutter, John Nelson, Philippe Entremont, Arthur Fagen, Chris Nance, Leopold Hager, Gianfranco Masini, and Eve Queler. She has performed over two hundred times with orchestra, including over one hundred operatic performances.
From 1986 to 1988, she was a member of the quartet New York Vocal Arts Ensemble and continued to work with that ensemble on occasion through 1996.
Brister sang Mistress Benson (Lakmé) again in 2006 with the Opera Orchestra of New York, twenty-five years after her professional debut in the same part. She continues to appear in recitals and concerts. Her students are presently singing at companies throughout the United States and Europe and many have faculty positions in American universities.
She was a teaching intern with the National Association of Teachers of Singing and has published articles with the Journal of Singing. She taught at Baylor University (1999-2000) and at the University of Arizona (2000-2003). She is faculty artist for the Orfeo Music Festival in Vipiteno, Italy, and previously was artist faculty of the Schlern International Music Festival. As of 2013, she is Associate Professor of Voice at Florida State University where she has worked since 2003. In 2013 she will present on Madeleine Dring to the International Congress of Voice Teachers in Brisbane, Australia.