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On Heels of Acclaim for BSO Damnation de Faust, Susan Graham Reprises Title Role in Met’s Merry Widow This Winter

Fresh from a rapturously received account of Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Charles Dutoit, Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Susan Graham – “an artist to treasure” (New York Times) – reprises her “vivacious and creamy-voiced” (New York Times) star turn as the wealthy widow Hanna Glawari in Susan Stroman’s production of Lehár’s The Merry Widow at the Metropolitan Opera this winter (Dec 14-Jan 11). Other highlights this season include a production of Leonard Bernstein’s comic one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti at Lyric Opera of Chicago; a return to the BSO in January to perform Mahler’s Third Symphony with Music Director Andris Nelsons; and a performance of Ravel’s Shéhérazade with the San Francisco Symphony, again led by Dutoit. Graham’s season is rounded out with recitals in Atlanta and St. Louis, Tulsa Opera’s 70th anniversary gala, and a title role debut in Marc Blitzstein’s Regina at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

“America’s favorite mezzo” (Gramophone) returns to the Metropolitan Opera in December and January to reprise her account of the title character in Susan Stroman’s staging of Lehár’s The Merry Widow. When Graham originally starred in the same production in 2015, the New York Times, admiring her “clear and eloquent” tone, declared:

“A straightforward, straight-talking presence, her Hanna … has no pretensions and no illusions. But Ms. Graham’s reserved, silky voice also gives the character a romantic side, as in her dreamy version of the celebrated ‘Vilja Song.’”

Graham celebrated the 25th anniversary of her Met debut last season, as one of three honorees – together with Ben Heppner and Deborah Voigt – at the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s 82nd Annual Luncheon. She also helped celebrate the Met’s own 50th anniversary at Lincoln Center, in company with other great exponents of the genre from around the world.

After wowing critics and audience alike in the Boston Symphony’s Der Rosenkavalier last season, Graham – world-famous as an interpreter of French repertoire and the recipient of a “Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur” from the French government – returned to the orchestra in October for her signature role of Marguerite in Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust, with Charles Dutoit on the podium. MassLive praised her “beautiful, warm, full voice,” while the Boston Musical Intelligencer called the entire performance “as close to Berlioz heaven as it gets on earth.” Captivated by her “hypnotic and melting” singing, the review added that “Graham didn’t just sing like an angel, she acted like one.” The mezzo’s second BSO engagement this season is a January performance, led by Music Director Andris Nelsons, of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, and she performs another staple of the French repertoire, Ravel’s Shéhérazade, with the San Francisco Symphony and Dutoit in the spring. Click here for a video of Graham singing “Chanson gothique” in Robert Lepage’s staged version of La damnation de Faust at the Metropolitan Opera.

Next year marks the centennial of the birth of Leonard Bernstein, and to honor the occasion Lyric Opera of Chicago presents Graham, baritone Nathan Gunn, and Broadway star Kate Baldwin in “Celebrating 100 Years of Bernstein,” with the Lyric Opera Orchestra under renowned Broadway conductor David Chase. Graham and Gunn open the program with the comic one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti, followed by favorite songs from the Bernstein catalog.

The stylistic flexibility that makes Graham the perfect choice for Bernstein’s trademark combination of operatic and Broadway elements is also on display when she makes her title role debut in seven performances of Marc Blitzstein’s Regina – often compared stylistically with Trouble in Tahiti – at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, opposite veteran Met bass-baritone James Morris and Broadway and television actor Ron Raines. An adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s play The Little Foxes, Regina is as demanding theatrically as it is musically, and the production marks the 30th anniversary of Graham’s debut with the company in another American opera: Samuel Barber’s Vanessa. When Graham played Anna in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I at Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet in 2014, the New York Times found her “close to perfection,” and Opera News declared:

“Opera singers in musicals can be disappointing, their sophisticated vocal techniques getting in the way of direct expression. No such caveats applied to Graham, whose performance was miraculously judged – a thread of golden sound bouncing off a crystal-clear delivery of the text.”

Rounding out Graham’s season is a February gala celebrating the 70th anniversary of Tulsa Opera, and two recitals, at Atlanta’s Emory University, where she also gives a master class, and at Washington University in St. Louis. There she reprises the recital program centered on Schumann’s song cycle Frauenliebe und -leben that she recently premiered at London’s Wigmore Hall and subsequently performed at venues across the U.S. and Europe. After the premiere, 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.”

Click here for high-resolution photos.

Susan Graham: upcoming engagements

Dec 14, 16, 20, 23, 27, 30; Jan 2, 5, 11

New York, NY

Metropolitan Opera

Ward Stare, conductor

Lehár: The Merry Widow (Hanna Glawari)

Jan 18-20

Boston, MA

Boston Symphony Orchestra / Andris Nelsons

Mahler: Symphony No. 3

Feb 2 & 3

Atlanta, GA

Emory University

Recital and masterclass

Feb 17

Tulsa, OK

Tulsa Opera

Timothy Long, conductor

“The Stars Align”: Anniversary Gala Celebration

March 10

Chicago, IL

Lyric Opera of Chicago

David Chase, conductor

“Celebrating 100 Years of Bernstein”

Bernstein: Trouble in Tahiti (Dinah)

March 25

St. Louis, MO

Washington University in St. Louis

Guest Artist Series: recital

April 19-21

San Francisco, CA

San Francisco Symphony / Charles Dutoit

Ravel: Shéhérazade

May 26, 31; June 6, 8, 16, 20, 24

St. Louis, MO

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Stephen Lord, conductor

Marc Blitzstein: Regina (Regina)

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© 21C Media Group, November 2017

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