To kick off the 2011-12 season, Susan Graham – “America’s favorite mezzo” (Gramophone magazine) – makes her much-anticipated Canadian Opera Company debut on Thursday, September 22, headlining the company premiere of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride with the role that has become her “calling card” (New York Times). October 30 sees the Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano, always “spellbinding” (Wall Street Journal) in Handel, return to the San Francisco Opera in the title role of the Baroque master’s Xerxes, in Nicholas Hytner’s Olivier Award-winning staging. A third title role follows in the new year, when Graham – “everybody’s dream Widow” (Variety) – joins the Paris Opera for Franz Lehár’s popular operetta The Merry Widow, which bows on February 29. Meanwhile, in January she embarks on a North American recital tour with her frequent collaborator, pianist Malcolm Martineau; that tour concludes with her return to Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium on February 1.
As the New York Times’s Anthony Tommasini explains, Gluck’s 1779 masterpiece Iphigénie en Tauride “has enjoyed a renaissance, thanks to the star power of the superb American mezzo-soprano Susan Graham”; when she undertook the title role at her home company, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, he judged her performance “riveting.” Likewise, at the San Francisco Opera, London’s Sunday Times described Iphigénie as “a role she was born to sing,” continuing:
“Iphigénie now belongs to Susan Graham and nobody else. She is spellbinding. …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.”
This past February, Graham returned to the Met to reprise her signature role opposite Plácido Domingo, earning the New York Times’s praise once again for her “haunted and mournful” portrayal of a role that’s a “perfect fit” for her. Tommasini wrote: “She started off singing with floating richness, emanating tenderness and hurt in arias with the quiet eloquence of prayer, and gained power and authority as the opera went on.” Similarly, after her account of the role at Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Chicago Tribune observed: “Graham put her own stamp on the part, bringing both nobility and vibrant vocal beauty to her affecting performance.”
The Canadian Opera Company production, in which she stars from September 22 until October 12, is directed by Robert Carsen, with Pablo Heras-Casado on the podium and baritone Russell Braun as Orestes.