September 11, 2019

Grammy Award-winning mezzo Susan Graham – lauded by the Associated Press as having “the ideal voice for Berlioz” – bookends her 2019-20 season with two very different works by the incomparable French Romantic. At the Berlin Musikfest, she opens the season with excerpts from his monumental final opera Les Troyens, and with the Vancouver Symphony she closes the season in a more reflective mode with one of her celebrated signature works: the song cycle Les nuits d’été. In between those engagements, she makes her role debut as Herodias in Francisco Negrin’s hit production of Salome at Houston Grand Opera, and returns to Chicago Lyric Opera for the company premiere of Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally’s Dead Man Walking, reprising the role of Mrs. De Rocher. Graham also tours two recital programs this season with her longtime collaborator, pianist Malcolm Martineau, making appearances in New York’s Alice Tully Hall, Berkeley’s Cal Performances, and Fort Worth’s Cliburn Concerts. Two spring orchestral concerts round out Graham’s season: she joins self-conducted Boston chamber orchestra A Far Cry for a performance of Ottorino Respighi’s evocative setting of the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem Il tramonto (The Sunset), and is featured in the Jacksonville Symphony’s spring gala under the baton of Courtney Lewis, singing music ranging from Gershwin to Ravel. After three decades at the highest echelons of the opera world, there is still, as the New York Times put it, “no more satisfying singer than this eminent mezzo-soprano, with her rich, even voice, exquisite musicianship, and warm presence.”

As one of today’s foremost interpreters of French vocal music, Graham has been recognized with the French government’s prestigious “Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur” honor, while Time Out New York considers her “unbeatable in French repertoire.” This season that specialty is prominently on display in the works of Berlioz, in a year that marks the 150th anniversary of his death. With the orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin and its General Music Director Donald Runnicles at the Berlin Musikfest, she sings the role of the tragic Queen Dido in excerpts from the composer’s last and grandest work, Les Troyens. In the season-closing concert of the Vancouver Symphony, she joins the orchestra and its Music Director Otto Tausk to reprise her signature interpretation of Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été. When she recorded the cycle more than two decades ago, Gramophone declared that “It would be hard to imagine a more inspiriting and rewarding display of Berlioz singing than this from a singer who has the composer’s style in her voice and heart,” and to this day she remains “one of the cycle’s finest exponents” (Bachtrack).

In the spring, Graham makes a role debut as Herodias in Francisco Negrin’s hit production of Salome at Houston Grand Opera. This marks the first time in 20 years that Richard Strauss’s opera has been mounted at the house, where the mezzo is a former Lynn Wyatt Great Artist. Lise Lindstrom makes her HGO debut in the title role, with Ryan McKinny as Jokanaan. This November sees another high-profile operatic engagement, when Graham returns to Chicago Lyric Opera for the company premiere of Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally’s Dead Man Walking, directed by Leonard Foglia, a longtime collaborator with both the composer and librettist. On the podium is Nicole Paiement, Principal Guest Conductor at the Dallas Opera, making her Lyric Opera debut. Graham has been associated with the work since she created the role of Sister Helen Prejean in the world premiere production at San Francisco Opera; in Chicago, she reprises the role of Mrs. De Rocher, mother of the convicted murderer, which she debuted two seasons ago at Washington National Opera. As DC Theater Scene noted: “She brings deep emotional understanding to the entire work. … Her voice holds great beauty, one of those on the stage that make people sigh and then leap to their feet and ‘holler’ opera style.”

After a recent recital with her longtime recital partner, pianist Malcolm Martineau, The Guardian admired “the beauty of Graham’s voice, her exceptional range as a performer, and the power and brilliance of Martineau’s playing.” Graham reunites with the pianist for three performances this season. In Berkeley’s Cal Performances she debuts a new program, combining Mahler’s tender Rückert-Lieder with the original piano version of Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été and selected arias. In New York’s Alice Tully Hall and Fort Worth’s Cliburn Concerts, Graham reprises a themed, eight-part recital program that she premiered with Martineau at London’s Wigmore Hall and subsequently performed at venues across the U.S. and Europe. With Schumann’s iconic song cycle Frauenliebe und -leben as its basis, the program also includes diverse songs by German, French, Scandinavian, Spanish, Russian and English composers from a variety of eras on themes that parallel the Schumann songs. The mezzo drew raves for the Wigmore Hall debut, when the Financial Times marveled: “One had to admire [Graham’s] sophistication, her impeccable diction, her subtle dynamic scale, her exquisite top notes.” As The Telegraph added: “Graham exudes an infectious joy in her art.”

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Susan Graham: 2019-20 season engagements

Sep 17
Berlin, Germany
Berliner Philharmonie
Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin
Donald Runnicles, conductor
BERLIOZ: Les Troyens (excerpts)

Nov 2, 6, 10, 13, 16, 22
Chicago, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Nicole Paiement, conductor
J. HEGGIE: Dead Man Walking(Mrs. De Rocher)

Feb 4
New York, NY
Alice Tully Hall
“Frauenliebe und –leben: Variations”
Malcolm Martineau, piano
Works by BERLIOZ, JOHN DANKWORTH, DEBUSSY, DUPARC, FAURÉ, GRANADOS, GRIEG, MAHLER, POULENC, QUILTER, TURE RANGSTRÖM, RAVEL, ROREM, SCHUMANN, STRAUSS, TCHAIKOVSKY, and TURINA

Feb 9
Berkeley, CA
Cal Performances, UC Berkeley
Hertz Hall
Recital with Malcolm Martineau
MAHLER: Rückert-Lieder
BERLIOZ: Les nuits d’été
Arias TBA

Feb 13
Fort Worth, TX
Cliburn Concerts
Kimbell Art Museum Piano Pavilion
“Frauenliebe und –leben: Variations”
Malcolm Martineau, piano
Works by BERLIOZ, JOHN DANKWORTH, DEBUSSY, DUPARC, FAURÉ, GRANADOS, GRIEG, MAHLER, POULENC, QUILTER, TURE RANGSTRÖM, RAVEL, ROREM, SCHUMANN, STRAUSS, TCHAIKOVSKY, and TURINA

March 7
Jacksonville, FL
Robert E. Jacoby Symphony Hall
Symphony Gala with Jacksonville Symphony
Courtney Lewis, conductor
Music by GERSHWIN, RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN, LEHÁR, RAVEL and more

March 13
Boston, MA
Jordan Hall
A Far Cry
RESPIGHI: Il tramonto 

April 17, 19, 25, 28, May 1
Houston, TX
Houston Grand Opera
Eun Sun Kim, conductor
R. STRAUSS: Salome (Herodias)

June 5 & 6
Vancouver, BC
Orpheum Theater
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Otto Tausk, conductor
BERLIOZ: Les nuits d’été

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© 21C Media Group, September 2019