Press Room

Susan Graham takes Ophelia, Lady Macbeth, and more on Jan/Feb recital tour

Coming off her phenomenal success in the title role of Xerxes at San Francisco Opera, Susan Graham – “America’s favorite mezzo” (Gramophone) – embarks on an eight-city North American recital tour. With her frequent collaborator, pianist Malcolm Martineau, she presents a thematic program inspired by iconic female characters of history, literature, and song, including Shakespeare’s Ophelia and Lady Macbeth, as rendered by Berlioz and Joseph Horovitz respectively; and a selection of song settings for Goethe’s Mignon by composers from Schubert to Duparc. The tour culminates in performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC (Feb 4) and New York’s Carnegie Hall (Feb 1), where Graham’s 2003 recital debut, also with Martineau at the piano, was recorded live and released by Erato as Susan Graham at Carnegie Hall. Showcasing the mezzo’s “abundant artistry” (BBC Music magazine), the album was named Classical CD of the Year by the New York Times.
Of the upcoming tour, Graham explains:
“The coolest thing about this program is its theme: iconic female characters in literature and song. We cover biblical, Shakespearean, and Goethe characters, as well as some who have gone dubiously awry in love, and the songs are dramatic, funny, gorgeous tunes.”
These include two songs by English Baroque master Henry Purcell. In “Tell Me, Some Pitying Angel” (1693) – Mary’s prayer on finding the twelve-year-old Jesus missing – the composer deploys his gift for capturing changing emotions to portray a mother’s anguish. By contrast, his 1683 masterpiece “Mad Bess” is both the forerunner and model for mad songs of the period, and a high point of the genre.
As befits a singer designated a “Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur” by the French government in recognition of her unrivaled expertise in French repertoire, Graham includes several French pieces on her recital program. Among these is Berlioz’s song “La mort d’Ophélie” (1842), the first of two featured works derived from Shakespeare. It was in the part of Hamlet’s doomed heroine that Berlioz first saw his muse and future wife, Harriet Smithson, an experience that prompted him to write two versions of the song; this setting for voice and piano is the original.
Mignon’s songs from Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (“Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship”) have been set by dozens of composers from the late 18th century onward, many of whom found Mignon’s mysterious persona so fascinating that they set them multiple times. The six titles on Graham’s program represent Schubert, Schumann, and Wolf, as well as three composers less often associated with the genre: Liszt, Tchaikovsky, and Henri Duparc.
The mezzo returns to Shakespeare with Lady Macbeth: a “scena” by Nino Rota Prize-winning British composer Joseph Horovitz (b.1926), whose text is taken from Macbeth’s first act, where Lady Macbeth expresses concern that her husband is “too full o’ the milk of human kindness” to fulfill his destiny.
Graham also features Poulenc’s song cycle Fiancailles pour rire (“Lighthearted Betrothal”, 1939), a setting of verse by Poulenc’s friend and compatriot, poet Louise de Vilmorin (1902-69), whose bittersweet, nostalgic writing the composer considered truly feminine.
Rounding out the program, a few surprise additional selections – also evoking iconic female characters from history, literature, and song – will be announced from the stage. Full tour details are provided below.
Following the final recital in Washington, the “peerless American mezzo” (New York Observer) will undertake her third title role of the season, revisiting another of her success stories when she takes on Hanna Glawari, the merry widow of Lehár’s eponymous operetta. When Graham sang the role at Los Angeles Opera, Variety reported: “Susan Graham has offered up everybody’s dream Widow in Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow – the wisdom, the cynicism, the lustrous voice.” Likewise, in a Metropolitan Opera presentation of the operetta, the New York Times found Graham to be “vivacious and creamy-voiced.” Running from February 29 to April 2, the Paris Opera production is directed by Jorge Lavelli and conducted by Asher Fisch.
Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano
Malcolm Martineau, piano
Recital program inspired by iconic female characters
Henry Purcell: “Tell me, some pitying angel” (The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation)
Henry Purcell: “Mad Bess” (Bess of Bedlam)
Hector Berlioz: “La mort d’Ophélie”
Franz Schubert: “Heiss’ mich nicht reden,” Op. 62, No. 2
Robert Schumann: “So lasst mich scheinen, bis ich werde,” Op. 98a, No. 9
Franz Liszt: “Kennst du das Land”
Pyotr Tchaikovsky: “Nyet tolko tot kto znal” (‘None but the lonely heart’)
Henri Duparc: “Romance de Mignon”
Hugo Wolf: “Heiss’ mich nicht reden”
Joseph Horovitz: Lady Macbeth (scena)
Francis Poulenc: Fiancailles pour rire (“Engagement for Laughs”)
   i. “La dame d’André”
   ii. “Dans l’herbe”
   iii. “Il vole”
   iv. “Mon cadavre est doux comme un gant”
   v. “Violon”
   vi. “Fleurs”
More songs on the same theme will be announced from the stage.
Susan Graham: upcoming engagements
North American recital tour
Jan 6
Québec, QC, Canada
Le Club Musical de Québec
Jan 10
St. Paul, MN
Schubert Club International Artist Series
Jan 14
Berkeley, CA
Zellerbach Hall at University of California, Berkeley
Jan 18
Northridge, CA
Valley Performing Arts Center, CSU Northridge
Jan 22
Morrow, GA
Spivey Hall
Jan 28
Toronto, ON, Canada
Koerner Hall at Telus Centre
Works by Mendelssohn, Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Duparc, Sondheim, and Noel Coward
Feb 1
New York, NY
Carnegie Hall
Feb 4
Washington, DC
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
Other engagements
Feb 29; March 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 16, 19, 22, 26 & 29; April 2
Paris, France
Opéra National de Paris
Lehár: The Merry Widow (Hanna Glawari)

April 20 & 21
Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra
Berlioz: La mort de Cléopâtre
June 19
Strasbourg, France
Opéra National du Rhin
Works by Schubert, Berlioz, Schumann, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Duparc, Wolf, Horowitz, Poulenc, Sondheim, and Noel Coward
Follow Susan Graham on Facebook
Follow Susan Graham on Twitter
#          #          #
© 21C Media Group, January 2012


Return to Press Room