Karen Kanakis

Positions at Luther College

Associate Professor of Music
Teaches Voice and Opera

Professional Experience

  • Performed over twenty leading operatic roles, both in the U.S. and Italy 
  • Active concert and oratorio soloist, including performances at Carnegie Hall (NYC) and Chicago's Orchestra Hall
  • Studied in Germany as a Rotary International Graduate Scholar
  • A Regional Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions
  • Member of the music honor society Pi Kappa Lambda
  • Member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing and winner of their "Emerging Leader" award
  • Prior to teaching at Luther taught at Missouri Southern State University and Texas Women's University

Hailed for her fine vocal technique and dramatic flair, soprano Karen Kanakis continues to perform a wide-ranging repertoire.  Two of her signature roles include Violetta in La traviata and the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor. “Her voice and her stage presence are a delight,” wrote a critic of her performance as Sybil in the world premiere of Hans Schaeuble’s Dorian Gray. 

Other operatic credits include Abigaille in Nabucco, Alice Ford in Falstaff, Giorgetta in Il Tabarro, Countess Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus, Juliette in Roméo et Juliette, Clorinda in La Cenerentola, and Adina in L’elisir d’amore. She made her Italian debut singing the role of Fanny in Rossini’s La cambiale di matrimonio in Castelfranco-Veneto, where she was later invited back to perform Violetta inLa traviata. 

Active also in concert and oratorio, Dr. Kanakis has been a featured soloist with symphony organizations performing the Verdi Requiem, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Brahms’s Ein Deutches Requiem, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Handel’sMessiah, Mozart’s Exsultate jubilate, and Orff’s Carmina Burana.  She made her Carnegie Hall debut in the Weill Recital Hall alongside her husband, baritone Jacob Lassetter. She can be heard on American composer Brooke Joyce’s CD “Waves of Stone” on the Innova label. 

A regional finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Dr. Kanakis has performed as an Apprentice Artist with both the Des Moines Metro Opera and the Utah Festival Opera Company. She earned her Bachelor of Music cum laude from Missouri State University and her Master of Music from Stephen F. Austin State University. A Rotary International Graduate Scholar, she also studied at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik Westfalen-Lippe in Detmold, Germany. She went on to the University of North Texas, winning the Concerto/Aria competition, and earning the DMA degree in voice and opera. 

Her voice students frequently win competitions such as the National Association of Teachers of Singing Student Auditions and the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and go on to top graduate schools for vocal study.  Dr. Kanakis’ students have also appeared in young artist programs with the Metropolitan Opera (Lindeman Program), Santa Fe Opera, The Ryan Opera Center (Lyric Opera of Chicago), Glimmerglass Opera, Seattle Opera, the San Francisco Opera Merola Program, Wolftrap Opera, Indianapolis Opera, and Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre.