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, studying with Patricia Brooks Etienne (Havranek). It was here she made her unofficial debut in 1978 as Maddalena in act 4 of Rigoletto, opposite Anthony Laciura as the Duke of Mantua. 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 where she worked with Patrick Shelby, a student of Andrew White and Sidney Dietch.
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. After several years of work as a professional singer and beginning her life as a university professor, she pursued and completed a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she studied with renowned vocal repertoire scholar Carol Kimball. Her dissertation topic was "The Songs of Madeleine Dring: Organizing a Posthumous Legacy."
Brister studied under Nell Rankin, a 24-year veteran of the Metropolitan Opera who had studied with Madame Jeanne Lorraine, a student of Manuel Garcia II, Beverly Wolff, who spent many years at New York City Opera and various world renowned venues, a student of Sidney Dietch, and Enrico Di Giuseppe, a tenor from the Metropolitan Opera. 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. In 2015 she recorded the cabaret songs of Madeleine Dring with Courtney Kenny.
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. Together with this group she traveled throughout the United States, and appeared did concerts for the Government's Concert Agency (GOSConcert) in the former Soviet Union in 1992.
She has appeared at festivals including Steinfurt (Germany) Festival, Schwetzingen (Germany) Festival, Varna (Bulgaria) Fest, the IV International Festival of Winds in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as well as in concerts for the International Double Reed Society in Ithaca, New York, Birmingham, England, and Norman, Oklahoma.
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 under the acclaimed vocal pedagogue, James McKinney, 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 2015, she is Associate Professor of Voice at Florida State University where she has worked since 2003. In 2013 she presented on Madeleine Dring to the International Congress of Voice Teachers in Brisbane, Australia.
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