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                      “Susan Graham has for the better part of a decade impressed audiences with her creamy singing and chiseled characterizations.” – New York Times Susan Graham – dubbed “America’s favorite mezzo” by Gramophone magazine – rose to the highest echelon of international artists within just a few years of her professional debut, mastering an astonishing range of repertoire and genres along the way. Her operatic roles span four centuries, from Monteverdi’s Poppea to Sister Helen Prejean in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, which was written especially for her. Graham won a Grammy Award for her collection of Ives songs, and her recital repertoire is so broad that 14 composers from Purcell to Sondheim are represented on her most recent album, Virgins, Vixens, and Viragos; as the UK’s Sunday Times noted: “It’s hard to think of another contemporary singer who could pull off the tour de force Graham achieves here, with numbers ranging over a period of almost 300 years.” Yet throughout her career, this distinctly American artist has been recognized as one of the foremost exponents

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Susan Graham has for the better part of a decade impressed audiences with her creamy singing and chiseled characterizations.”

New York Times

Susan Graham – dubbed “America’s favorite mezzo” by Gramophone magazine – rose to the highest echelon of international artists within just a few years of her professional debut, mastering an astonishing range of repertoire and genres along the way. Her operatic roles span four centuries, from Monteverdi’s Poppea to Sister Helen Prejean in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, which was written especially for her. Graham won a Grammy Award for her collection of Ives songs, and her recital repertoire is so broad that 14 composers from Purcell to Sondheim are represented on her most recent album, Virgins, Vixens, and Viragos; as the UK’s Sunday Times noted: “It’s hard to think of another contemporary singer who could pull off the tour de force Graham achieves here, with numbers ranging over a period of almost 300 years.” Yet throughout her career, this distinctly American artist has been recognized as one of the foremost exponents of French vocal music; a Texas native, she was awarded the French government’s prestigious “Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres,” both for her popularity as a performer in France and in honor of her commitment to French music.

The mezzo’s earliest operatic successes were in such “trouser” roles as Cherubino in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. Her technical expertise soon brought mastery of Mozart’s more virtuosic roles, like Sesto in La clemenza di Tito, Idamante in Idomeneo, and Cecilio in Lucio Silla, as well as the title roles of Handel’s Ariodante and Xerxes. She went on to triumph in the iconic Richard Strauss mezzo roles, Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier and the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos. These brought Graham to prominence in all the world’s major opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Covent Garden, Paris Opera, La Scala, the Bavarian State Opera, Vienna State Opera, the Salzburg Festival, and many more.

Besides creating the role of Sister Helen Prejean in the world premiere production of Dead Man Walking at San Francisco Opera, Graham sang the leading ladies in the Met’s world premieres of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby and Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy. Last season, she made her long-overdue Dallas Opera debut, singing “ravishingly” (Washington Post) in her role debut as Tina in a new production of Dominic Argento’s The Aspern Papers. As Houston Grand Opera’s Lynn Wyatt Great Artist for 2013-14, she launches the new season as Prince Orlofsky – another trouser role – in the company’s first staging of Die Fledermaus in 30 years. And this winter at the Met, she heads an all-star cast featuring Plácido Domingo and David Daniels, singing Sycorax in a revival of Jeremy Sams’s acclaimed Baroque pastiche, The Enchanted Island.

It was in an early Lyon production of Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict that Graham scored particular raves from the international press for her pristine French diction and style, and a triumph as Massenet’s Chérubin at Covent Garden sealed her operatic stardom. Invitations to explore French music further were forthcoming from many of that repertoire’s preeminent conductors, including Sir Colin Davis, Charles Dutoit, James Levine, and Seiji Ozawa. New productions of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride, Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust, and Massenet’s Werther were mounted for the mezzo in New York, London, Paris, Chicago, San Francisco, and elsewhere. At Santa Fe Opera, she gave rapturously received first appearances in the title roles of Offenbach’s comic masterpieces La belle Hélène and The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein. And last season, her “sumptuous, regal, and impassioned” Didon proved “the big news” (New York Times) of the Metropolitan Opera’s star-studded revival of Berlioz’s Les Troyens, which was broadcast live on cinema screens worldwide as part of the company’s celebrated Live in HD series.

Graham’s affinity for French repertoire has not been limited to the opera stage, and serves as the foundation for her extensive concert and recital career. The great oratorios and symphonic song cycles, including Berlioz’s La mort de Cléopâtre and Les nuits d'été, Ravel’s Shéhérazade, and Chausson’s Poème de l’amour et de la mer, take her to the world’s leading orchestras, with regular appearances at the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, and London Symphony Orchestra. In 2013-14, she joins Bernard Haitink and the Boston Symphony for performances of Shéhérazade in Boston and New York’s Carnegie Hall, besides pairing Schönberg’s Lied der Waldtaube with Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen on a European tour with Pablo Heras-Casado and the Ensemble InterContemporain. Marking her first duo recital tour, the mezzo recently teamed up with soprano Renée Fleming for “ravishing, haunting” (Los Angeles Times) performances of French repertory at Disney Hall, Carnegie Hall, and four more of the nation’s foremost venues.

Graham’s distinguished discography features all the works described above, as well as solo albums including Un frisson français, a program of French song recorded with pianist Malcolm Martineau for Onyx; C’est ça la vie, c’est ça l’amour!, an album of 20th-century operetta rarities on Erato; and La belle époque, an award-winning collection of songs by Reynaldo Hahn with pianist Roger Vignoles, from Sony. Among the mezzo’s additional honors are Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year and an Opera News Award.

 

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© 21C Media Group, September 2013                         

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Reviews

"Susan Graham was a joy to watch and to hear: she delivered her lines with boldness, majesty and precision, highlighting both the most delicate and the most tyrannical aspects of the Persian king. Her performance was practically flawless: hearing her delivering such complex ornamentation for over three hours made her seem super-human."

Marina Romani, Musicalcriticism.com

"This show also has a star, singing one of her signature roles: Susan Graham, an American mezzo who has virtually taken over a part that used to be sung mainly by sopranos. The richness and detail of her singing was such that when she moved from recitative to aria, it seemed that the flow of melody merely changed its form, not its intensity. She gave the rather amiable, major-key music of Iphigénie’s big Act II lament a melancholic serenity that was perfect for the scene, the score and the moment. But I didn’t entirely buy the show’s well-articulated view of the heroine as a naïve girl-woman; she has already cut a lot of throats by the time we meet her."

Robert Everett-green, The Globe and Mail

"After Thursday night, I prefer to exult in the fact that I have seen Susan Graham play Iphigenia, a performance that evokes the same awe as any natural or man-made wonder. The exquisite Graham not only is totally believable as the driven-to-madness Iphigenia, but the way she gives voice to those feelings is almost frightening. Like the giant sword she brandishes, her voice can catch the light one moment and cut through your heart the next "

Richard Ouzounian, Toronto.com

"Friday’s main draw was mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, tapped here to open the program with music from one of her signature roles, as Iphigénie (from Gluck’s “Iphigénie en Tauride’’). Supported by a fine quartet of Tanglewood Music Center sopranos, Graham was in splendid voice and brought the music across with a luxurious, well-focused tone and plenty of dramatic conviction. She returned on the second half with two excerpts to savor, from Handel’s “Alcina’’ and “Ariodante.’’"

Jeremy Eichler, Boston.com

"…a fine cast headed by mezzo-soprano Susan Graham&'s handsome, ardent young Octavian… Octavian is one of Graham&'s signature roles, and on Saturday night she was everything a worldly Marschallin or a naive Sophie, fresh from convent school, could have wanted. Tall and good-looking, her Octavian was an impetuous lover and a wicked comic. Disguised as the Marschallin's maid, fending off the advances of the boorish Baron Ochs, she was a sparkling blend of self-reliant working girl and flustered sexual prey… Succulent, with a golden warmth and purity of tone, it was an ideal instrument for her ardent but singularly thoughtful Octavian."

Wynne Delcoma, Chicago Sun-Times

"There&'s no finer Octavian in any theater today than Graham, who delivered the mezzo's music with typical beauty and firmness of sound, making the Marschalli's teenage paramour coltish and vulnerable. Never before has a Lyric production given Graham's impeccable comic timing such a free hand, and she proved absolutely hilarious in her disguise as the gawky chambermaid Mariandel, whom the baron also lusts after."

John von Rhein, The Chicago Tribune

"Susan Graham was in top form as the anguished prince Idamante. Her gorgeous mezzo timbre and marvelous technique shone in arias such as ‘Non ho colpa’ and ‘Il padre adorato’; her signature restraint and superb dignity were right in line with the aims of the production."

Marcia J. Citron, Opera News

"Mezzo Susan Graham in the role of Sondra has the second-best vocal music, and she decorates the ornate arching lines with the charm and confidence of a young woman who, as Clyde says in the novel, is constantly the center of attention."

David J. Baker, Opera News

"Susan Graham was well cast as wealthy Sondra Finchley; her throbbing mezzo has recently gained in sensuality and allure."

Eric Myers, Variety.com

"[Playing the Composer,] she dashes about in fine vocal fettle, firm and strong, but gives herself plenty of room to melt and catch the vulnerability of someone feeling love where least expected."

Geoff Brown, The Times

"Ecstatically applauded by her fans and superbly partnered at the piano by Malcolm Martineau, she brought uncommon sensitivity and restraint to Brahms’ Zigeunerleider, elegant repose to Debussy’s Proses lyriques and muted nostalgia to Berg’s Sieben frühe Lieder. One had to admire her sophistication, her impeccable diction, her subtle dynamic scale, her exquisite top tones."

Martin Bernheimer, Financial Times

"…one of opera’s favorite funny girls is back…"

F. Paul Driscoll, Opera News