Susan Graham Opens Season Singing Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder With San Francisco Symphony Under Michael Tilson Thomas

“ America’s Favorite Mezzo” Returns to Metropolitan Opera as Octavian in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier; to Lyric Opera of Chicago as Marguérite in Berlioz’s Damnation de Faust; and to Houston Grand Opera as Handel’s Xerxes

On September 16, Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Susan Graham officially kicks off her 2009-10 season with performances at the opening of the San Francisco Symphony’s “Mahler Festival 2009” under Michael Tilson Thomas. The American mezzo recently ended her summer with the poignant honor of singing Schubert’s “Ave Maria” at the funeral of Senator Edward M. Kennedy in Boston on August 29. Immediately afterwards, she traveled to Japan for Seiji Ozawa’s Saito Kinen Festival, where she sang three performances of Ravel’s Shéhérazade. Next she heads to San Francisco, to perform Mahler’s cycle of songs on texts by Friedrich Rückert under Michael Tilson Thomas, and records them as part of the highly praised series of Mahler’s symphonies and song cycles with the San Francisco Symphony. This will be Graham’s first recording of a Mahler song cycle with orchestra.

Susan Graham returns to the Metropolitan Opera in Der Rosenkavalier

Graham’s portrayal of the youthful Viennese nobleman Octavian in Richard Strauss’s Rosenkavalier has become one of her most popular and idiomatic characterizations, and, on October 13, she returns to the Metropolitan Opera for the first of four performances in the role. She sings four more, beginning on New Year’s Day 2010, all under Met Maestro James Levine and famously paired again with Renée Fleming’s Marschallin. These are Graham’s first Met performances of Der Rosenkavalier since April 2005.

At San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre on November 5, Susan Graham begins a tour with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and its conductor Nicolas McGegan, during which she’ll sing five concerts as the Queen of Carthage in Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. London ’s Sunday Telegraph raved about Graham’s EMI recording of the work: “Susan Graham sings Dido with controlled intensity and a richly burnished tone in this excellent new recording, conducted with exhilarating verve by Emmanuelle Haïm. The casting is top-class, with Ian Bostridge a plaintive Aeneas, Camilla Tilling effervescent as Belinda, and Felicity Palmer a ripe Sorceress. David Daniels is the Spirit, Paul Agnew the Sailor. A distinguished interpretation of this masterpiece.”

Following her tour with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Susan Graham returns to New York to host the 2009 Opera News Awards on November 19. The Gala Awards dinner at Gotham Hall will feature tributes to this year’s honorees: soprano Martina Arroyo, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, bass-baritone Gerald Finley, composer Philip Glass, and mezzo-soprano Shirley Verrett. For the second year in a row, Graham co-hosts the event with baritone Thomas Hampson. After the Opera News Awards ceremony, Susan Graham is back on the road for recitals in Carmel, CA and at the Schubert Club in St. Paul, MN.

Susan Graham brings her singular Marguérite to Chicago
For a complete change of pace (and venue), Graham is to sing Berlioz’s Marguérite at Lyric Opera of Chicago in La damnation de Faust, opening February 20, 2010 in the same production she illuminated at the Met last season. The production was transmitted internationally by “The Met: Live in HD” and was one of the biggest hits of the 2008-09 season. “The production features an all-star cast,” said the Associated Press review, one of many praising her Marguérite, continuing: “Graham has the ideal voice for Berlioz – a mezzo with a dark richness that blossoms into lush soprano-like tones – and she’s a perfect instrument for the devil’s seduction of Faust’s pure soul.” Recognized as one of the foremost singers of French repertoire today, Graham earned praise everywhere she toured last winter with the Berlioz orchestral song-cycle Les nuits d’été. These comments from Chicago are representative:

“The alluring American mezzo-soprano and Berlioz’s music are a match made in vocal heaven, and her performance of that composer’s song cycle, Les nuits d’été (“Summer Nights”) could only be called exquisite. The six songs demand the qualities that Graham has in abundance – a beautiful voice that can be lightened and darkened with ease and is secure throughout a wide range; a natural command of French vocal style, diction, and nuance; and the ability to project an emotional range from rapturous delight to bitter bereavement.” – Chicago Tribune
“The great mezzo-soprano Susan Graham [gave] the finest performance of Berlioz’s song cycle Les nuits d’été that this listener has ever heard. ... – Chicago Sun-Times
Graham, a “Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur,” has recorded much French repertoire, but her most recent solo recording, “Un frisson français”, has been an especial hit internationally. She and pianist Malcolm Martineau have also toured with the program – comprising nearly two dozen songs by as many composers – to great acclaim. Time Out New York has called her “unbeatable in French repertoire,” and the recital Graham and Martineau gave this past summer, at the Verbier Festival in French-speaking Switzerland , brought down the house. Dominique Dubreuil, writing for ClassiqueNews.com, described the joy of hearing “the radiant voice of Susan Graham – and the obvious joy she herself clearly has – interpreting the words, phrases, and inflexions of what seems to be her second native language.” (August 21, 2009)

usan Graham returns to Houston in Handel’s Xerxes
In her performances of Handel’s Ariodante in San Francisco in 2008, Graham was enormously successful; starting on April 30, 2010 at Houston Grand Opera she takes on another great heroic Handel title character – Xerxes (Serse, in the Italian version of these Houston performances). Serse opens the opera with probably the most famous non-religious aria in Handel’s enormous output, sometimes known as a love-song to a tree: “Ombra mai fù”, often referred to as Handel’s “ Largo ”. The Wall Street Journal wrote of her Ariodante last year: “There can be few living singers who can do such spellbinding justice both to Handel’s stark emotions and his heavenly music as Susan Graham... . She was totally compelling both in romantic ecstasy and in abject dismay.”

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