Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Susan Graham Returns to the Metropolitan Opera as Iphigénie, in Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride

“Susan Graham, one of the leading mezzo-sopranos of our time,…is in her absolute prime.”– Denver Post (July 2010)

On February 12, the Grammy Award-winning mezzo Susan Graham returns to the Metropolitan Opera to sing the “role she was born to sing”, starring opposite Plácido Domingo in the title role of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride. After taking her celebrated portrayal of Iphigénie to many of the world’s great opera houses, Graham returns home to the Met for the revival of its Stephen Wadsworth production, as originally mounted for her in 2007. Next, at Houston Grand Opera, she reprises her “breath stopping” (Independent, UK) portrayal of the Composer in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, and with the Philadelphia Orchestra, she sings Marguerite in Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust, in which role the New York Times pronounced her “terrific.”

When Graham made her Metropolitan Opera house role debut in Stephen Wadsworth’s production of Iphigénie en Tauride, the New York Times’s Anthony Tommasini judged her performance “riveting.” The Wall Street Journal remarked, “Susan Graham…is making a specialty of the role. … Tragedy suits her: her Iphigénie made the most of her dark, velvety sound and passionate intensity.”

A critic for London’s Sunday Times described Graham’s Iphigénie at San Francisco Opera:

A role she was born to sing, Iphigénie now belongs to Susan Graham and nobody else. She is spellbinding. … Since she first sang Iphigénie, at the Salzburg Festival in 2000, Graham has made the part her own. … Among the top-ranking singers of today, Graham has the field to herself. She can claim personal credit for the restoration of this sublime masterpiece to the repertoire. … She sings Gluck’s serene airs with a rapt beauty of tone and delivers his great accompanied recits with a fervor that holds the audience spellbound. She sings her heart out in the role – it’s undoubtedly a career landmark. I can’t wait to see and hear it again at Covent Garden.”

Gluck’s 1779 masterpiece Iphigénie en Tauride “has enjoyed a renaissance, thanks to the star power of the superb American mezzo-soprano Susan Graham,” writes Anthony Tommasini in the New York Times, praising “her intense and vulnerable performance,” and the way “she sang with rich, throbbing sound and tragic grandeur, including a magnificent interpretation of ‘O malheureuse Iphigénie’.”

The AP’s Ron Blum observed: “Most of the night’s burden falls on Graham, who commanded the stage from start to finish. The mezzo-soprano sings virtually nonstop during the opening 20 minutes, and Graham was constant emotion, bringing believability to her vulnerability, anger, and dismay. … The opera should be seen for her performance alone.” Now, for the Met’s forthcoming revival, Graham reprises her starring role opposite Plácido Domingo and Paul Groves in Gluck’s masterful interpretation of the Greek myth.

The Texas-bred mezzo then travels to Houston Grand Opera for five appearances as the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos, the role in which, as the Independent’s Roderic Dunnett reports, she “took the [Covent Garden] auditorium by storm.” Conducted by Patrick Summers and co-starring Christine Goerke, the Houston production is directed by John Cox, who succeeds in “bringing out the dichotomous nature of the theme with subtlety and finesse” (Culture Vulture); it opens on April 29.

In May, Graham returns to her signature French repertoire; as one of its foremost exponents, she has been honored by the French government with the title “Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur.” Joined on May 27-28 by fellow Berlioz expert Charles Dutoit and the Philadelphia Orchestra, the mezzo stars as Marguerite in The Damnation of Faust. After the Met staged Berlioz’s légende dramatique, the New York Times’s Tommassini explained: “The mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, an inspired choice as Marguerite, sounds terrific. She was especially fine in ‘D’amour, l’ardente flamme,’…[bringing] a lovely blend of rapturous richness and elegant restraint to this wistful aria, with its elusive melody and soothing, almost Wagnerian orchestral backdrop.”

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