. Interchanging Idioms: Susan Graham’s “Commanding Performance” Makes San Francisco Opera’s Xerxes a “Genuine Triumph”

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Susan Graham’s “Commanding Performance” Makes San Francisco Opera’s Xerxes a “Genuine Triumph”

Susan Graham – “America’s favorite mezzo” (Gramophone) – has just scored another major triumph, this time in the title role of Handel’s Xerxes at San Francisco Opera. As Mercury News reports, “hers was a commanding performance,” with Nicholas Hytner’s revival of the Olivier Award-winning staging already looking to be “the hit of the season.”

The San Francisco Chronicle concurs: “It only took about five minutes on Sunday afternoon for the San Francisco Opera’s first production of Handel’s Xerxes to establish itself as a genuine triumph. …For vocal allure, theatrical dexterity, and visual inventiveness, this Xerxes proved to be a complete delight from beginning to end.” As for the Grammy Award-winning mezzo herself,

“In the title role, Graham added to her long catalog of San Francisco successes with a performance of vocal majesty and vigor – her delivery of Xerxes’ big Act II showpiece aria was a tour de force – as well as a comic gift that has rarely been called into evidence.”

The revival features celebrated countertenor David Daniels – also Graham’s co-star in the same staging at Houston Grand Opera last season – as Arsamenes, with Lisette Oropesa as Romilda, and Patrick Summers conducting, under Michael Walling’s direction. “Hands down, this is an exceptional cast,” observes the Bay Area Reporter, admiring the “superb, consistently delightful production” and singling out the way

“Graham, as superb in Baroque coloratura as she is in Romantic lyricism, tosses off one interpolated embellishment after another with the warm, seductive sound for which she is prized. …Her voice and artistic commitment sweep all before them.”

In short, as the San Francisco Examiner affirms, the production is another “grand-slam winner” to add to Graham’s burgeoning roster of success stories.

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