Sarah Thompson Johansen has established herself as a passionate and expressive singer and actor, hailed for her "beautiful vocal work" (Third Coast Review) and "comically adept" performances (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel). Her flexible, warm instrument is at home in classical vocal music ranging from Mozart to Muhly. She is a keen advocate for new music, and her flexible, warm instrument can be frequently heard throughout Chicagoland performing the work of contemporary living composers. Her professional recording debut came in 2017 with the release of Ross Crean's The Great God Pan on Navona Records/PARMA Recordings, distributed by Naxos of America. She created the role of Helen in the recording of Crean's chamber opera, based on Arthur Machen's 1894 horror novella. The record is currently available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon, and streaming on Spotify.
In the 2019-2020 season, Sarah was a vocalist and actor in director in The Storefront Project, a devised theatre collaboration between The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and Prop Thtr., featuring direction by Dado and original music by Elenna Sindler. On Halloween night, she performed the role of The Morrigan in the world premiere of Rosśa Crean's new a cappella opera The Harbingers.
Closing out her 2018-19 performance season, Sarah performed multiple roles as an member of the ensemble in Eugene Ionesco's Killing Game with Chicago storefront theatre stalwart A Red Orchid Theatre. The acclaimed spring 2019 production was directed by Dado with original musical composition by Elenna Sindler. Earlier in the season, she returned to Thompson Street Opera Company in the company's 2019 Faulty Systems opera/social justice collaborative event, performing the role of Artistic Director in Sean Ellis Hussey's ...for the sake of a narrative closure, and returned to Facility Theatre as a performer in their acclaimed fall 2018 production of Jen Silverman's Phoebe in Winter. In August 2018, she performed the role of Donna Elvira in the Midwest premiere of Ross Crean's The Times are Nightfall, a noir/pulp operatic sequel to Mozart's Don Giovanni, and spent time at Chicago's Experimental Sound Studios recording Crean's extended art song, "Chicago and December," to be included in the upcoming album Songs for the City, Hymns to the Dream on Navona Records.
2017-2018 season engagements included lead/ensemble in David Lang's Pulitzer Prize winning chamber vocal work The Little Match Girl Passion, in a staged performance with Facility Theatre, lauded by critics as "nearly unimpeachable" (Chicago Reader). In March 2018, she performed the role of Nicchia in work-in-progress stagings of composer Phil Fried and librettist Ruth Margraff's The Locket Arias, presented in collaborations with School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and Red Tape Theatre. January 2018 marked her first appearance with Chicagoland's New Philharmonic in La traviata, where she covered Annina and appeared in the chorus. In September 2017, she returned to Chicago's innovative Thompson Street Opera Company as Steampunk Girl in their world premiere of Eric Lindsay's newly completed opera Cosmic Ray and the Amazing Chris. Additionally, the 2017-2018 season saw Sarah debut as an outreach/teaching artist as the title role in Rusalka with Chicago Opera Playhouse, and as a member of The Lira Ensemble, the United States' only professional performing arts organization dedicated to Polish music, and artists-in-residence at Loyola University, Chicago. In summer 2017, she added to her growing performance resume of American opera roles as Beth in Adamo's Little Women with Chicago Vocal Arts Consortium.
During the 2016-2017 season, Sarah appeared as Lisbe in Zémire et Azor with Skylight Music Theatre, Zina in Dark Sisters with Third Eye Theatre Ensemble (named one of Chicago's top 5 operas of 2016 by New City Stage), and in the ensemble of the Midwest premiere of The Final Battle for Love with Thompson Street Opera Company. In 2015-2016, she was heard as Zerlina in Don Giovanni with The Floating Opera Company, Suor Dolcina in Suor Angelica with Opera West, and performed in Princess Ida (The Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company) and H.M.S. Pinafore (The Savoyaires). Sarah made her professional debut in the 2014-2015 season as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro with Concertia.
Within the Chicago opera community, Sarah serves as secretary of Thompson Street Opera Company's Board of Directors, and is a regular performer on the roster of the Chicago chapter of Opera on Tap. She also maintains an interest in costuming and textile arts. In 2018, she designed costumes for Opera on Tap Chicago's production of Der Freischütz, Thompson Street Opera Company's April 2018 double bill of Dust of the Road and Bobok, Northwestern University's summer Intensive Vocal Seminar revue of The Impresario and other scenes, and Ross Crean's Midwestern premiere of The Times Are Nightfall.
Before adopting Chicago as her home base, Sarah performed a variety of roles in her native state of Iowa, appearing as Juliette in Roméo et Juliette, Josephine in H.M.S. Pinafore, The Governess (cover) in The Turn of the Screw, Nymph II in Euridice, and Woman Blessing Candles in the world premiere of The Sparks Fly Upward. She was also a founding member of Des Moines opera collective Opera Eight.
Sarah earned an Master of Arts in Voice/Opera from the University of Iowa, where she studied under soprano Rachel Joselson, and a Bachelor of Arts in Music/Voice from Central College. She currently studies voice with Pamela Hinchman of Northwestern University.