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’ 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.

To launch the 2018-19 season, Graham reunites with Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony to reprise their celebrated account of Mahler’s Third Symphony at London’s BBC Proms and in Berlin, Leipzig, Vienna, Lucerne, and Paris. Back in the States, she makes her role debut as Humperdinck’s Witch in Doug Fitch’s dreamlike treatment of Hansel and Gretel at LA Opera. In concert, she returns to Carnegie Hall for Mozart’s Requiem and Haydn’s “Nelson Mass” with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and revisits her signature interpretation of Les nuits d’été with the Houston Symphony under Ludovic Morlot, to mark the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death. Inspired by the Schumann song cycle, her “Frauenliebe und -leben Variations” program is the vehicle for upcoming U.S. recital dates.

Last season, Graham sang Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust with the Boston Symphony under Charles Dutoit. After reprising her star turn in the title role of Susan Stroman’s take on Lehár’s The Merry Widow at the Met, she joined Nathan Gunn for Trouble in Tahiti at Lyric Opera of Chicago to honor the Bernstein Centennial. She concluded the operatic season with her title role debut opposite James Morris in Marc Blitzstein’s 1948 opera Regina at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Besides rejoining the Boston Symphony for Mahler’s Third Symphony, she sang Ravel’s Shéhérazade at the San Francisco Symphony, graced a gala concert to celebrate Tulsa Opera’s 70th anniversary, and gave solo recitals in Atlanta and St. Louis. In 2016-17, she partnered with Renée Fleming for the San Francisco Symphony’s opening-night gala, and joined Anna Netrebko, Plácido Domingo, 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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