Susan Graham

Mezzo-Soprano

Biography

Susan Graham – hailed as “an artist to treasure” by the New York Times – rose to the highest echelon of international performers 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. A familiar face at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, she also maintains a strong international presence at such key venues as Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet, Santa Fe Opera and the Hollywood Bowl. She won a Grammy Award for her collection of Ives songs, and has also been recognized throughout her career as one of the foremost exponents of French vocal music. Although a native of Texas, she was awarded the French government’s prestigious “Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur,” both for her popularity as a performer in France and in honor of her commitment to French music.

This season, Graham makes her role debut as Herodias in Francisco Negrin’s production of Richard Strauss’s Salome at Houston Grand Opera and reprises her celebrated portrayal of Mrs. Patrick De Rocher, mother of the convicted murderer, in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s company premiere of Dead Man Walking. In concert, she sings Berlioz’s La mort de Cléopâtre and excerpts from Les Troyens with Donald Runnicles and the orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin at the Berlin Musikfest, revisits her signature interpretation of the composer’s Les nuits d’été with the Vancouver Symphony, and headlines the Jacksonville Symphony 2020 Gala. To complete the season, she graces a “Beyond the Aria” concert in Chicago’s Millennium Park and partners with pianist Malcolm Martineau for recitals of Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder in Berkeley’s Cal Performances series and of her Schumann-inspired Frauenliebe und -leben: Variations program in Fort Worth’s Cliburn Concert Series and at New York’s Lincoln Center.

Last season, Graham joined Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony for Mahler’s Third Symphony at London’s BBC Proms and in Berlin, Leipzig, Vienna, Lucerne, and Paris. She made her role debut as Humperdinck’s Witch in Hansel and Gretel at LA Opera, hosted “An Evening with Susan Graham” at Dallas’s Meyerson Symphony Center, sang Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne with David Robertson and the Sydney Symphony, headlined the Mayshad Foundation’s season-closing gala concert in Marrakech, and returned to Carnegie Hall, first with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and then with Alec Baldwin and Leonard Slatkin for the Manhattan School of Music’s Centennial Gala Concert. To mark the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death, she performed Les nuits d’été with the Houston Symphony and made her New Zealand debut in La mort de Cléopâtre with the New Zealand Symphony under Edo de Waart. Other highlights of recent seasons include starring in Trouble in Tahiti at Lyric Opera of Chicago to honor the Bernstein Centennial, making her title role debut opposite James Morris in Marc Blitzstein’s 1948 opera Regina at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and appearing alongside Anna Netrebko, Renée Fleming and a host of other luminaries to celebrate the Metropolitan Opera’s five decades at its Lincoln Center home.

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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

More Reviews

“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&amp’s handsome, ardent young Octavian… Octavian is one of Graham&amp’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&amp’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 

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