The American mezzo-soprano, Mary Phillips, holds degrees in music and theater from Rhode Island College and a master's degree in music from Yale University. She is a recipient of the Kennedy Center National Acting Award and was the Eastern Regional Winner of the 1994 Metropolitan Opera Auditions. She was selected as an apprentice in the Santa Fe Opera and has performed at the Marlboro Festival and the Ravinia Steans Institute for Young Artists.
Mary Phillips is a remarkably versatile dramatic mezzo-soprano who shines equally on concert and opera stages and moves smoothly from George Frideric Handel, Mozart and L.v. Beethoven through Verdi, Wagner, Strauss, and Gustav Mahler to works of present day composers including Jake Heggie, Michael Torke and Aaron Jay Kernis.
Mary Phillips has garnered praise for her compelling stage presence in a wide range of repertoire. She made her international opera debut in Tenerife (Canary Islands) in concert performances of Die Walküre (Rossweise), and she has since repeated the role at the Dallas Opera, in her Seattle Opera debut, and with the Metropolitan Opera. She has won acclaim at Canadian Opera as Fricka and Waltraute in Die Walküre (directed by Atom Egoyan) and as Waltraute in Götterdämmerung (directed by Tim Albery). Her success in their Der Ring des Nibelungen led COC to immediately invite her to sing the role of Eboli in Verdi’s Don Carlo. Phillips joined the Met roster in the 2005-2006 season, making her debut as Preziosilla in La Forza del Destino. Her regular appearances with the company have since included Wagner, both in New York and on tour in Japan, singing Waltraute and Rossweise in Die Walküre and covering Fricka. In addition she has sung the role of Mrs. Alexander in their acclaimed new production of Philip Glass’s Satyagraha and covered la Principessa in Suor Angelica, the Mother of Yue-Yang in Tan Dun’s First Emperor, and Elvira Griffiths in Picker’s An American Tragedy. Her San Francisco Opera debut was in Verdi, as Giovanna/Maddalena in Rigoletto, and she has been acclaimed as Eduige in Rodelinda for Dallas Opera. Phillips has sung Wellgunde and Rossweise in Seattle Opera’s acclaimed Der Ring des Nibelungen, and looks forward to returning there for Azucena in Il Trovatore in autumn 2009. In early 2009 she sang Miss Jessel in Turn of the Screw for Portland Opera, and Santuzza in Cavelleria for Orlando Opera. Her international appearances have taken her to the Edinburgh Festival as Erda in the Scottish Opera Der Ring des Nibelungen and twice to Barcelona’s Teatre de Gran Liceu (Sesto in Giulio Cesare and the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos, 2003-2004).
Mary Phillips is gaining a reputation for her work in contemporary repertoire, notably for her performance as Sister Helen Prejean in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, which she first undertook at Austin Lyric Opera. She is a favorite colleague of the composer, who has been at the piano for her performances of his song cycle “The Starry Night” at the Ravinia Festival as well as at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall and at the Library of Congress. She also appears as a featured soloist on "Flesh & Stone", a recording comprised of song cycles by Jake Heggie, the proceeds from which go to support Classical Action/Equity Fights AIDS. Her facility with new works led to her New York Philharmonic Orchestra debut, in the world premieres of Michael Torke’s Four Seasons and Aaron Jay Kernis’s Garden of Light, under the leadership of Music Director Kurt Masur. Other contemporary credits include her Dallas Opera debut as Ceres in Lee Hoiby’s The Tempest, works for mezzo-soprano and viola with Paul Neubauer, and works of Ned Rorem with Brian Zeger and with New York Festival of Song. Recently released on Naxos is a recording of songs of Charles Ives.
Mary Phillips is much in demand on the concert stage. Her concert concert engagements include a Carnegie Hall concert performance of Ernani with the Opera Orchestra of New York. She made her debut at the Göttingen Handel Festival last spring as Irene in Atalanta, a role she repeated with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in fall 2005. She also appeared at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall with the American Symphony Orchestra led by Leon Botstein for a concert performance of the rarely performed Zemlinsky opera Eine florentinische Trägodie in the role of Bianca. In particular, G. Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, L.v. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and G.F. Handel’s Messiah have provided an introduction to many orchestras, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (G. Mahler’s Symphony No. 2), the Boston Symphony Orchestra (L.v. Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in performances conducted by Hans Graf at Tanglewood), the Springfield Symphony, the Honolulu Symphony, the Hong Kong Philharmonic (G. Mahler’s Symphony No. 2), the North Carolina Symphony, Handel and Haydn Society, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, with whom she recorded L.v. Beethoven’s Opferlied and Symphony No. 9, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, with whom she recorded the G. Mahler Symphony No. 2. Her frequent guest appearances in a wide range of repertoire have also taken her to the Houston Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra (debut in Szymanowski's Stabat Mater and the Mozart Requiem), Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (debut in Tchaikovsky's rarely-heard Ophelia Songs), Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Richmond Symphony Orchestra.
The 2008-2009 seasons includes more G. Mahler, most prominently the role of Mulier Samaritana in Symphony No. 8 with Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and Symphony No. 2 in Beijing with the Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale as part of the celebrations surrounding the 2008 Summer Olympics. In addition this season finds her as soloist in G. Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde at the Brevard Festival, L.v. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for Utah Symphony Orchestra and Opera, and Verdi’s Requiem in North Carolina.
Mary Phillips resides in New York City with her young son, Max, where she enjoys baking and inventing new dishes for dinner. She is an avid yoga practitioner and tennis player, and has been a die-hard Red Sox fan since 1976. Nights off are often spent at the theatre or at modern dance performances, often in the company of her many girlfriends - including her twin sister, soprano Lori Phillips - who provide, she says, her life-line, sanity and serenity.