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Susan Graham Embarks on Recital Tour in April, Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Met Opera House, Joins Met Orchestra for Mahler in Carnegie Hall

After a lavishly praised star turn in Washington National Opera’s revival of Dead Man Walking this winter, Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Susan Graham turns to a U.S. tour in April of her equally successful and wide-ranging recital program, “Frauenliebe und -leben: Variations,” inspired by and centered on Schumann’s iconic song cycle, with longtime recital partner Malcolm Martineau. She also joins a cast of the world’s greatest opera luminaries to celebrate the Metropolitan Opera House’s 50 Years at Lincoln Center in an Anniversary Gala; performs selections from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn with the Met Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen in Carnegie Hall; and sings Berlioz’s La mort de Cléopâtre, a staple of her signature French repertoire, with the San Antonio Symphony.

Last season Graham put together a themed, eight-part recital program titled “Frauenliebe und -leben: Variations.” It premiered at London’s Wigmore Hall, and has since been performed in venues around the U.S. and Europe. Based on the song cycle by Robert Schumann that gives the program its name, it also includes diverse songs by German, French, Scandinavian, Spanish, Russian and English composers from a variety of eras on the theme of women in love. The mezzo drew raves for the Wigmore Hall debut, with The Telegraph declaring that “Graham exudes an infectious joy in her art.” Her pianist in London was Malcolm Martineau, who rejoins her in April for three more accounts of “Frauenliebe und –leben: Variations.” They perform in Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theater, head up the coast to Oregon for a performance in Portland’s Lincoln Recital Hall, and later in the month appear in Baltimore’s Shriver Hall Concert Series. As the Financial Times said of the program: “Ecstatically applauded by her fans and superbly partnered at the piano by Malcolm Martineau … one had to admire [Graham’s] sophistication, her impeccable diction, her subtle dynamic scale, her exquisite top notes.”

When the Metropolitan Opera celebrates its 50th anniversary at Lincoln Center in May, Graham will be on hand amongst the greatest stars of the genre from around the world, including Renée Fleming, Anna Netrebko, Joyce DiDonato, Diana Damrau, Joseph Calleja, Javier Camarena, Placido Domingo, René Pape, James Morris, and many others. The house opened in its Lincoln Center home on September 16, 1966, with Leontyne Price and Justino Díaz starring in the world premiere of Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra, in what the New York Times called a “crescendo of splendor.” The 50th Anniversary Gala follows Graham’s triumph at the Met in fall of 2015, when she inspired an outpouring of positive press in her role debut as Countess Geschwitz in William Kentridge’s hit new production of Berg’s modernist masterpiece Lulu. As the New York Observer concluded, she “sang so radiantly [she] made Berg’s spiky music sound downright romantic.” Graham herself also celebrated a Met anniversary this past fall, as she, Deborah Voigt and Ben Heppner were the honorees at the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s 82nd Annual Luncheon, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of their respective Met debuts.

Graham joins the Met Orchestra for one more engagement at the end of May, along with tenor Matthew Polenzani and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, performing excerpts from Mahler’s song cycle Des Knaben Wunderhorn in an all-Mahler program in Carnegie Hall. The mezzo’s performance of Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony was captured live for their 2010 recording of the German master’s orchestral songs; San Francisco Classical Voice described her on that occasion as “characteristically poised and radiant,” singing with “full, lustrous tone, regal bearing, and keen sensitivity.” The subsequent album review on AllMusic found the songs to be “sung almost to perfection.”

Also in May, Graham joins the San Antonio Symphony led by Sebastian Lang-Lessing for an all-French program that includes Berlioz’s La mort de Cléopâtre, as well as selections from French operetta and American musical theater. World-renowned as one of the foremost exponents of French vocal music, Graham has been awarded the French government’s prestigious “Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur”; as San Jose’s Mercury News put it, “There’s no one better in this repertoire.” After her performance this winter of selections from Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Bachtrack concluded: “Ms. Graham turned each of these chansons into its own special gem, and Maestro Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia players offered sympathetic accompaniment, achieving some really rapturous moments.”

In a recent new production of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking at Washington National Opera, Graham made a role debut as Mrs. De Rocher, the convict’s mother, after creating the role of Sister Helen Prejean in the world premiere production at San Francisco Opera in 2000, when the Los Angeles Times reported that she “brought not just the ravishing beauty of her mezzo-soprano to Sister Helen but seemed to glow onstage.” Her performance as Mrs. De Rocher was equally applauded, with DC Theater Scene noting: “She brings deep emotional understanding to the entire work and in terms of emotional truth, she carries us into the heart of the mother. 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.” The Washington Post elaborated that the character’s farewell to her son “was made all the more touching … by the remarkable mezzo-soprano Susan Graham singing a part that everyone in the audience probably wished were twice as long to better showcase her.”

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Susan Graham: upcoming engagements

April 6-23
Spring recital tour with Malcolm Martineau, piano

“Frauenliebe und –leben: Variations”
April 6: Santa Barbara, CA (Lobero Theater, Community Arts Music Association of Santa Barbara)
April 9: Portland, OR (Lincoln Recital Hall, Friends of Chamber Music)
April 23: Baltimore, MD (Shriver Hall)

May 7
New York, NY
Metropolitan Opera
50 Years at Lincoln Center: a Gala Celebration
Met Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Selections from Porgy and BessSamson et DalilaLes TroyensI Lombardi, & Antony and Cleopatra

May 12, 13
San Antonio, TX
San Antonio Symphony
Sebastian Lang-Lessing, conductor
Berlioz: La mort de Cléopâtre
Selections from French operetta and American musical theater

May 31
New York, NY
Carnegie Hall
Met Opera Orchestra
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
Mahler: Selections from Des Knaben Wunderhor

June 30; July 5, 8; Aug 7, 14, 19, 26
Santa Fe, NM
Santa Fe Opera
Rory Macdonald, conductor
Strauss: Die Fledermaus (Prince Orlofsky)

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© 21C Media Group, March 2017

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