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Susan Graham’s 2014-15: Malaysian Phil debut, Berlioz with LSO & ORR, SFO “Troyens,” Met “Widow”

Now at her vocal peak” (Philadelphia Inquirer), Susan Graham scored a fresh triumph this summer at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, where, as Anna in a new production of The King and I, she made her first foray into musical theater since her student days. Now the Grammy Award-wining mezzo returns to the concert hall, launching the 2014-15 season under Edo de Waart in her Malaysian Philharmonic debut, and joining a trio of top orchestras – the London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Flemish Philharmonic, and John Eliot Gardiner’s Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique – for her signature Berlioz. Long recognized as one of the world’s foremost exponents of French music, Graham returns with Berlioz to the San Francisco Opera, revisiting her star turn as Didon in an original staging of Les Troyens, while for her return to the Metropolitan Opera she sings the title role in Susan Stroman’s new take on The Merry Widow. Ever “an artist to treasure” (New York Times), Graham looks forward to headlining gala concerts at Los Angeles Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago, where she joins Jane Lynch, Renée Fleming, Ramsey Lewis, and other celebrities to honor the company’s 60th anniversary, and rounds out the season in company with her regular recital partner, pianist Malcolm Martineau, for a west coast tour and a season-closing appearance in Classical Action’s Michael Palm Series.

A recipient of the French government’s prestigious “Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur,” in honor of her commitment to French music, Graham has “the ideal voice for Berlioz – a mezzo with a dark richness that blossoms into lush soprano-like tones” (Associated Press). Les nuits d’été, the French composer’s sole orchestral song cycle, has already played a major part in her career, from her acclaimed 1997 recording with the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House to her performances with Charles Dutoit and the Royal Philharmonic last June. This season the mezzo sings the cycle in collaboration with two more of England’s leading orchestras: the London Symphony Orchestra with Sir Mark Elder at London’s Barbican Hall (Feb 5), and – as on her celebrated BBC Opus Arte DVD release of Berlioz’s Les Troyens – the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, Monteverdi Choir and John Eliot Gardiner, with whom she appears in Mexico City on the choir’s 50th anniversary tour (Oct 17 & 18). It is also in Berlioz that Graham joins the Royal Flemish Philharmonic for concerts in Brussels and Antwerp, where they perform his dramatic cantata La mort de Cléopâtre, in which the New York Times has pronounced her “riveting” (Feb 12–14).

Another of the composers with whom Graham has achieved especial success is Mahler, whose monumental Third Symphony – a vocal tour de force – is the vehicle for her first performances with the Malaysian Philharmonic (Oct 11 & 12). “People think that Mahler is profound and deep and heavy and worldly,” she explains. “But the more I listen and sing, I realize that it also has a lightness, and there is a sense of loss – but then he lost a child of his own.” Loss is also a dominant theme of Das Lied von der Erde, another large-scale but personal work by the late-Romantic master, which Graham sings this season with tenor Paul Groves and David Robertson conducting the St Louis Symphony (Nov 22 & 23). Released earlier this year, her Sony/RCA recording of the work with the Tonhalle Orchestra and David Zinman was declared “glorious, … an album where Zinman and Graham truly capture the precious final glimpses of a dying man” (Limelight, Australia).

Back in the opera house, Graham turns once again to Berlioz, reprising her triumphant portrayal of Didon (Dido) in his rarely staged epic, Les Troyens, at the San Francisco Opera (June 7–July 1). She will be joined by Bryan Hymel as Aeneas under Donald Runnicles’s direction, in the company’s premier presentation of David McVicar’s striking production, hailed at its Covent Garden debut as “a major event” (The Guardian, UK). Two seasons ago, when the Met staged a star-studded revival of the opera that was broadcast live to cinema audiences worldwide in the company’s celebrated Live in HD series, Graham was widely acknowledged as its standout star; the New Yorker singled out her “serene and enduring artistry,” while the New York Times concluded: “The big news is the mezzo-soprano Susan Graham…whose portrayal is sumptuous, regal, and impassioned.

For her return to the Met this season, Graham resumes the title role of Lehár’s operetta The Merry Widow, in which she has long been recognized as “everybody’s dream Widow” (Variety). Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi leads the new staging by five-time Tony Award-winning Broadway sensation Susan Stroman, which features art-nouveau sets from Julian Crouch (April 24–May 7).

The mezzo, whose numerous accolades include an Opera News Award and Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year, has been invited to headline a number of high-profile galas and special events this season. Following her return to her Texas hometown where she launched the Midland-Odessa Symphony’s new season in “An Evening with Susan Graham” (Sep 13), she graces a gala concert at the Los Angeles Opera (Dec 6), makes a special guest appearance at the Marilyn Horne Song Celebration at Carnegie Hall (Jan 17), and celebrates Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 60th-anniversary alongside such luminaries as Emmy Award-winning actress Jane Lynch, jazz legend Ramsey Lewis, renowned improv comedy troupe The Second City, and her fellow singers including Renée Fleming, Stephanie Blythe, and Eric Owens, under the baton of Sir Andrew Davis at Chicago’s Civic Opera House (Nov 1).

Finally, Graham rounds out the coming season in company with pianist Malcolm Martineau, with whom she embarks on a recital tour of California, stopping in Palm Desert, Davis, Berkeley, and Palo Alto (Feb 24–March 5), and makes a season-closing appearance in Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS’ Michael Palm Series in New York (April 2). As the New York Times commented after the mezzo’s Carnegie Hall recital in 2012, “Susan Graham’s Carnegie Hall recitals arrive like comets: lovely and rare. … Her singing was simply gorgeous, with Mr. Martineau providing a pulse both steady and supple.”

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These engagements follow on the heels of Graham’s recent resounding success in her musical theater debut as Anna in a new staging of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I at Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. The New York Times marveled,

“Ms. Graham, the American mezzo-soprano, is close to perfection as Anna, exhibiting a proper degree of English reserve and condescension, but not haughtiness, in confronting the difficult social milieu in which she finds herself. She sings beautifully, with perfect intonation, crisp diction and unforced tone.

Similarly, Opera News observed,

“Opera singers in musicals can be disappointing, with 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. Not only was the mezzo stylish in the vocal numbers, but her cut glass English accent and stiff backed determination as the straight laced governess took no prisoners.”

Details of Susan Graham’s upcoming engagements follow, and additional information is provided at



Susan Graham: engagements, 2014-15

Oct 11 & 12
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra / Edo de Waart
Mahler: Symphony No. 3

Oct 17 & 18
Mexico City, Mexico
Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique; Monteverdi Choir / John Eliot Gardiner
Berlioz: Les nuits d’été
Nov 1
Chicago, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
LOC 60th Anniversary Gala Concert

Nov 22 & 23
St Louis, MO
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra / David Robertson
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde (with Paul Groves, tenor)

Dec 6
Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles Opera
Gala concert

Jan 17
New York, NY
Carnegie Hall
Marilyn Horne Song Celebration (special guest)

Jan 29
Tucson, AZ
University of Arizona

Feb 5
London, UK
Barbican Centre
London Symphony Orchestra / Sir Mark Elder
Berlioz: Les nuits d’été

Feb 12–14: Belgian tour with Royal Flemish Philharmonic
Berlioz: La mort de Cléopâtre
Feb 12: Brussels
Feb 13 & 14: Antwerp

Feb 24–March 5: Californian recital tour with Malcolm Martineau, piano
Feb 24: Palm Desert, CA (McCallum Theatre)
Feb 26: Davis, CA (Mondavi Center)
March 1: Berkeley, CA (Cal Performances, University of California)
March 5: Palo Alto, CA (Stanford Live, Stanford University)

March 3
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Conservatory

March 12
Santa Fe, NM
Performance Santa Fe (formerly Santa Fe Concert Association)
Recital (with Malcolm Martineau, piano)

March 19
Paris, France
Musée d’Orsay
Recital (with Malcolm Martineau, piano)

April 2
New York, NY
Classical Action’s Michael Palm Series
Recital (with Malcolm Martineau, piano)
April 24, 27 30; May 7
New York, NY
Metropolitan Opera
Lehár: The Merry Widow (Hanna Glawari)

June 7, 12, 16, 20, 25; July 1
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Opera
Berlioz: Les Troyens (Didon) 


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© 21C Media Group, October 2014

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