Wednesday, July 17, 2013


At Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, California to see Renée Fleming and Susan Graham in a recital of French salon songs—a period piece.  Full house.  I have seen Susan Graham only once—a week ago—in her stunning performance as Didon in Berlioz’s Les Troyens, part of the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series.  I have flown from Arizona to San Francisco for Renée Fleming, of whom I am a passionate and devoted fan. Surprise! From the moment Graham takes the stage, I am enthralled!
      To make a thrilling story brief, Graham is terrific performing with Renée and on her own.  Strong, beautiful, poised and in command of her voice, which is wonderful and blends with Fleming’s beautifully, Susan Graham is a diamond onstage—dazzling!  The great surprise, however, is how funny she is.  In the patter, in the banter with Renée, in the spontaneous asides to the audience—each one of us has fast become putty in her hands.

That was in January of this year.

Last week I drove to New Mexico to see Susan Graham again.

At the Santa Fe Opera in a terrific production of Offenbach’s The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein, Susan Graham reigns!  From entrance to finale I cannot take my eyes or my ears off her.

The story itself is a comedy, a parody on pompous, rigid militaristic attitudes present in Germany in the 18th Century.  However, in this production the location has been moved from a military academy in Gerolstein to one in the Mid-Western United States at the turn of the 20th Century, sending-up the gung-ho policies present in that time and place.  And the work has much to say that is relevant today.  

Susan Graham is The Grand Duchess, and she embodies the part completely—statuesque, fully in charge, stylishly and strikingly clothed!

Being very funny herself, Susan delivers Offenbach’s humor with ease: in words and music, body language and flair. 
Her singing is glorious: at once forceful and lyrical.  Dramatically, in the proper places, she opens our hearts by exposing the Duchess’s vulnerability and tenderness.  In shifting from the French lyrics of the music to the English words of the spoken text, Susan is seamless. 
And this mezzo-soprano is in exquisite voice.  

With music that is accessible and harmonically pleasing to the ear, that possesses humor even in its notes, this is an operetta that is light and uplifting to the spirit—fun!  Exactly like its star.

Susan Graham.  Brilliant, warm, generous, beautiful, thrilling.
I Loved every minute in her presence—a passionate and devoted fan!

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