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This Spring, Susan Graham Sings with San Francisco Symphony (May 19–22), at San Francisco Opera (June 16), and – with New Recital Program – in Boston Celebrity Series (April 29)

This spring, Grammy Award-winning mezzo Susan Graham – hailed as “an artist to treasure” by the New York Times – sings Berlioz’s cantata La mort de Cléopâtre with the San Francisco Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas (May 19–22). She also graces a star-studded farewell gala for retiring San Francisco Opera general director David Gockley (June 16), and reunites with frequent recital partner Bradley Moore for “Frauenliebe und –leben Variations,” a wide-ranging new recital program centered on Schumann’s iconic song cycle, with performances in Boston’s Celebrity Series (April 29) and at Michigan’s Gilmore Keyboard Festival (May 2). These engagements crown a season that has already seen Graham triumph in Lulu and Die Fledermaus at the Met and wow listeners in concert with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Carnegie Hall, besides headlining the Paris-themed celebrations with which the New York Philharmonic rang in the New Year.

For her new recital tour, the mezzo put together a themed, eight-part program that spans the gamut of art song. With Schumann’s song cycle Frauenliebe und -leben at its heart, this draws on musically, dramatically, and stylistically diverse selections by Germany’s Mahler, Schumann, and Richard Strauss; France’s Berlioz, Ravel, Duparc, Fauré, Debussy, and Poulenc; Scandinavia’s Grieg and Ture Rangström; Spain’s Granados and Joaquín Turina; Russia’s Tchaikovsky; and England’s Roger Quilter and – from the jazz world – John Dankworth (see full program below). Graham drew raves when she premiered “Frauenliebe und –leben Variations” at London’s Wigmore Hall last month. The Telegraph found that “Graham exudes an infectious joy in her art,” and the Guardian that:

“Susan Graham has long been noted for her insightful recital programmes, but her latest concert … was remarkable even by her own standards. It’s a concept that also showed off to perfection the beauty of Graham’s voice [and] her exceptional range as a performer.”

The mezzo’s pianist in London was Malcolm Martineau, whom she rejoins for further accounts of “Frauenliebe und –leben Variations” at France’s Opéra National de Bordeaux (June 7), and Madrid’s Teatro Real (June 11).

It was in concert with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony that the San Francisco Classical Voice described Graham as “characteristically poised and radiant,” singing with “full, lustrous tone, regal bearing, and keen sensitivity,” while “conducted with great sensitivity by Tilson Thomas.” The vehicle for their upcoming collaboration is Berlioz’s La mort de Cléopâtre, another signature work that Graham previously recorded with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic. One of the foremost exponents of French vocal music, the mezzo has been awarded the French government’s prestigious “Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur”; as the San Jose Mercury News put it, “There’s no one better in this repertoire.”

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These engagements follow the mezzo’s triumph at the Met last fall, when she inspired a spate of positive press in her role debut as Countess Geschwitz in William Kentridge’s hit new production of Berg’s modernist masterpiece Lulu. “She distinguished herself with her burnished warm sound from the very first notes,” declared the Washington Post. She “balance[d] fragile dignity and poignant neediness in her performance,” added the New York Times. As the New York Observer concluded, she “sang so radiantly [she] made Berg’s spiky music sound downright romantic.” Similarly, when Graham returned to the mainstage of Carnegie Hall last week, to give her signature rendition of Purcell’s “Dido’s Lament” with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s under Nicholas McGegan, the New York Times was moved to note:

“Her performance will surely be remembered by all who heard it. Stunningly, Ms. Graham began that climactic line first at a near-shout, then at a near-whisper, with musical values always in perfect control.”

Click here for high-resolution photos.


Susan Graham: “Frauenliebe und -leben Variations” recital program I
Robert Schumann (1810-1856): “Seit ich ihn gesehen” from Frauenliebe und –leben, Op. 42
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907): “Møte”
Richard Strauss (1864-1949): “Seitdem dein Aug’ in meines schaute”

Schumann: “Er der Herrlichste von allen” from Frauenliebe und –leben, Op. 42
John Dankworth (1927-2010): “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?”
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924): “Chanson d’amour”
Ture Rangström (1884-1947): “Melodi”

Schumann: “Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben” from Frauenliebe und –leben, Op. 42
Grieg: “Jeg elsker dig”
Fauré: “Au bord de l’eau”

Schumann: “Du Ring an meinem Finger” from Frauenliebe und –leben, Op. 42
Gustav Mahler (1860-1911): “Rheinlegendchen”
Joaquín Turina (1882-1949): “Los dos miedos”

Schumann: “Helft mir, ihr Schwestern” from Frauenliebe und –leben, Op. 42
Schumann: Lieder der Braut aus dem Liebesfrühling I & II
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937): “Tout gai!”

Henri Duparc (1848-1933): “Phidylé”
Claude Debussy (1862-1918): “La chevelure”
Schumann: “Süsser Freund, du blickest“ from Frauenliebe und –leben, Op. 42

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893): “Cradle song”
Francis Poulenc (1899-1963): “Le carafon”
Strauss: “Wiegenliedchen”
Schumann: “An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust“ from Frauenliebe und –leben, Op. 42

Hector Berlioz (1803-1869): “Absence”
Enrique Granados (1867-1916): “La maja dolorosa No. 1 (O muerte cruel)”
Roger Quilter (1877-1953): “How should I your true love know?”
Schumann: “Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan“ from Frauenliebe und –leben, Op. 42

Susan Graham: upcoming engagements

April 29
Boston, MA
Jordan Hall
Recital: “Frauenliebe und -leben Variations”
With Bradley Moore, piano

May 2
Kalamazoo, MI
Gilmore Keyboard Festival
Recital: “Frauenliebe und -leben Variations”
With Bradley Moore, piano

May 19–22
San Francisco, CA
Davies Symphony Hall
San Francisco Symphony / Michael Tilson Thomas
Berlioz: La mort de Cléopâtre

June 7
Bordeaux, France
Opéra National de Bordeaux
Recital: “Frauenliebe und -leben Variations”
With Malcolm Martineau, piano

June 11
Madrid, Spain
Teatro Real
Recital: “Frauenliebe und -leben Variations”
With Malcolm Martineau, piano

June 16
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Opera
“Celebrating David!”: David Gockley Farewell Gala

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© 21C Media Group, April 2016

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