The American mezzo-soprano, Susan Graham, was born in New Mexico and raised in Texas. She is a graduate of Texas Tech University and the Manhattan School of Music. She studied the piano for 13 years. She was a winner in the Metropolitan Opera's National Council Auditions, and also a recipient of the Schwabacher Award from the Merola Program of San Francisco Opera, as well as a Career Grant from the Richard Tucker Foundation.
Susan Graham made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1991, and her international dbut at Covent Garden in 1994, playing Massenet's Chérubin. Todays she is one of the foremost opera stars, a versatile and compelling singing actress with a devoted international audience. She has sung leading roles from the Baroque and Classical to contemporary creations in the great opera houses of the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala Milan, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Vienna State Opera, Opéra National de Paris, Dresden's Semperoper, and at the Salzburg Festival, and she has appeared with most of the world's leading conductors and orchestras. In great demand at home and abroad, the Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano enchants audiences with her expressive voice, her natural, engaging acting ability in both comedy and tragedy, and with her tall and graceful stature. A cover article in Gramophone magazine dubbed her "America's favorite mezzo."
A favourite artist at the Salzburg Festival, Susan Graham has appeared there in productions of Le nozze di Figaro, La clemenza di Tito, Lucio Silla, Falstaff and L'Orfeo there. In 2000 she sang there the title role in a new production of Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride. In the late 1990's, she made a series of acclaimed European debuts, including the Vienna State Opera as Octavian, La Scala as Marguerite in La damnation de Faust conducted by Seiji Ozawa, and Glyndebourne and the Paris Opera as Dorabella in Così fan tutte, the latter marking the reopening of the Palais Garnier for operatic performances. At the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, she has appeared as Chérubin and Dorabella in new productions and also the title role in the world premiere of Monteverdi's Arianna, as reconstructed by Alexander Goehr. She has performed Béatrice in Berlioz' Béatrice et Bénédict at L'Opera de Lyon, Octavian at Welsh National Opera, and Charlotte in a new production of Werther at the Netherlands Opera.
In concert Susan Graham has appeared with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the title role in Ravel's L'enfant et les sortileges, conducted by Seiji Ozawa. She has sung Gustav Mahler's Rückert Lieder and Fourth Symphony with the Minnesota Orchestra and Edo de Waart. In addition to her Salzburg Festival concerts, she has performed Berlioz's Les Nuits d'été with Sir Colin Davis and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, with Antonio Pappano at Brussels' Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie and, in Paris, with Charles Dutoit and the Orchestre National de France, as well as in Boston, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Sydney and Lyon. With the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, she has appeared in Mozart's Mass in C Minor. Graham has collaborated often with conductors Claudio Abbado, Charles Dutoit, Seiji Ozawa, Sir Neville Marriner, John Eliot Gardiner, Donald Runnicles, Edo de Waart, Kent Nagano, James Levine, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sir Georg Solti and Robert Shaw, among others. She made her professional recital debut in San Francisco's prestigious Schwabacher Debut series.
During the summer of 1998, Susan Graham sang Béatrice at the Santa Fe Opera in a new production of Béatrice et Bénédict, as well as appearing in concert at the Tanglewood Festival and the Mostly Mozart Festival at New York's Lincoln Center. In January 1999, she returned to the Metropolitan Opera for a new production of Massenet's Werther, in which she sang the role of Charlotte opposite Thomas Hampson in the title role, in the first Met performances of the composer's rarely performed version of the opera for baritone. Her 1999-2000 season included Mozart's La clemenza di Tito and Georg Frideric Handel's Alcina in Paris and Berlioz' Béatrice et Bénédict in London. Other appearances during the 1999-2000 season included La Damnation de Faust with Seiji Ozawa at the Saito Kinen Festival, G. Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn with the Berlin Deutsche Oper Orchestra and Christian Thielmann, Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos at Munich's Bayerische Staatsoper and Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier in London at the Royal Opera Covent Garden. A frequent guest at the Metropolitan Opera since her 1991 debut, Graham returned in the fall of 1999 to sing in three separate productions. She participated in the much anticipated premiere of John Harbison's The Great Gatsby. She reprised her celebrated role as Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, under the direction of Edo de Waart, and sang the role of Octavian in Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier, under the direction of James Levine.
During the 2000-2001 season, Susan Graham starred in the San Fransisco Opera world premiere of Jake Heggie's and Terrence McNally's operatic retelling of Dead Man Walking. She brought the central role of Sister Helen to life in the adaptation for the opera stage of the widely-lauded, best-selling novel that became an Oscar-winning film starring Susan Sarandon and directed by Tim Robbins. Graham was joined by Frederica von Stade as the inmate's mother. A highly acclaimed recital singer, Graham celbrated the art of song with a recital tour of major venues around the world, making stops in Germany, Austria, Spain, Canada, France, The Netherlands (at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw), England (at London's Wigmore Hall), and in the USA (at New York's Alice Tully Hall), among others.
In 2006-2007 seasaon, Susan Graham created a leading role in her second Metropolitan Opera world premiere, An American Tragedy by Tobias Picker. She participated in the season-finale gala for Joseph Volpe, which was telecast nationwide on PBS, and made her career role debut as Monteverdi's Poppea, with Houston Grand Opera.
Susan Graham sang the title role in Iphigénie en Tauride in Chicago and San Francisco in 2007-2008 season, after triumphing in the role in Paris the previous year (2006-2007). Her Salzburg Festival performance was recorded by Orfeo d'or. She also performed the title role in Monteverdi's Incoronazione di Poppea with the Los Angeles Opera, where she later sang in Franz Lehár's Merry Widow. (She also wowed audiences at the Met in 2003 in the Lehár role.) She gave a USA recital tour with Malcolm Martineau, and sang orchestral concerts with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and Berlin's Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester. She also gave a recital with noted French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard at the Paris Opéra.
leading participant in the international Gluck revival, Susan Graham opened her 2007-2008 season singing the title part in Iphigénie en Tauride on opening night at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. This is the third of the three companies that jointly produced the Iphigénie staging in which she sang in the previous season with Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Francisco Opera - performances greeted with unequivocal critical praise. The Chicago Tribune stated: "Graham put her own stamp on the part, bringing both nobility and vibrant vocal beauty to her affecting performance. She made something real of the high priestess' tragic dilemma, caught between enforced duty and her own conscience, victimized by mortals and gods alike." This season (2008-2009) Susan Graham also gives important concerts and recitals at home and abroad. She opens the Boston Symphony Orchestra season in an all-Ravel gala concert, singing Shéhérazade under James Levine. Other orchestral engagements include performances of Berlioz's cantata La Mort de Cléopâtre with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra under David Robertson, with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Lorin Maazel, and with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Sir Simon Rattle. Graham also sings the Berlioz song cycle Les nuits d'été, both with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Pierre Boulez, in Chicago and New York's Carnegie Hall, and with the Orchestre de Paris under Christoph Eschenbach. Additionally, Susan Graham participates in performances of Berlioz's sacred drama L'enfance du Christ with Zürich's Tonhalle Orchestra under Charles Dutoit. She returns to her home company, the Metropolitan Opera, after an absence of a season, in a new Stephen Wadsworth production of Iphigénie en Tauride mounted especially for her. Also at the Met she returns to one of her great trouser roles: Sesto in Mozart's La clemenza di Tito. A season finale with San Francisco Opera presents her in another of her finest travesty roles, G.F. Handel's Ariodante. With a season full of opera and concerts, Graham sings solo recitals only at London's Wigmore Hall, Madrid's Auditorio Nacional, Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, and the Châtelet in Paris, all with her frequent collaborator, pianist Malcolm Martineau. A dedicated Francophile and expert in French music, decorated by the French government as a "Commandeur dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres," Susan Graham devotes her current season (2008-2009) almost exclusively to French repertoire. It ranges from the original 1779 version of Gluck's tragic opera Iphigénie en Tauride to Ravel's Shéhérazade, via three great Berlioz works: La mort de Cléopâtre, Les nuits d'été, and L'enfance du Christ.
Susan Graham has premièred several roles in contemporary operas, including John Harbison's The Great Gatsby (Jordan Baker), Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking (Sister Helen Prejean), and Tobias Picker's An American Tragedy (Sondra Finchley). She is a noted champion of the French song repertoire and of songs by contemporary American composers, including Ned Rorem and Lowell Liebermann. Graham made her Carnegie Hall recital debut in April 2003, and a recording of this recital was later released.
Under her contract for solo projects with Sony Classical, Susan Graham recorded a recital entitled "La Belle Epoque: The Songs of Reynaldo Hahn", featuring rarely recorded mélodies from fin-de-siècle Paris, with pianist Roger Vignoles. This album was released in the autumn of 1998 and has since been awarded the "Choc du Monde de la Musique" (10/98), Opera International's "Timbre de Platine" (10/98), the "Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik" (1/99) and the 1999 Caecilia Prize. Graham also won international critical acclaim for her first solo recording for Sony Classical, another all-French disc featuring vocal music of Hector Berlioz, including Les nuits d'été and a selection of opera arias, with John Nelson conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. "It would be hard to imagine a more inspiriting and rewarding display of Berlioz singing than this from a singer who has the composer's style in her voice and heart," Gramophone wrote in its review of the recording, adding, "Graham manages to explore and deliver the soul of each of her chosen pieces, her voice -- firm yet vibrant, clear yet warm -- responding interpretatively and technically to the appreciable demands placed on it by this program." Graham can also be heard in Sony Classical's recording of Schumann's Scenes from Faust, with Claudio Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker.
Susan Graham's complete opera recordings range from G.F. Handel's Alcina and Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride to Barber's Vanessa and Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking. In Heggie's opera she portrays the real-life Sister Helen Prejean in a role written for her that she created in the work's world premiere at the San Francisco Opera. Her performance as Didon in Les Troyens on a DVD from the Châtelet in Paris conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner was described by Gramophone as "moving and intense ... strongly acted and magnificently sung." Her most recent solo recording, "Poèmes de l'amour," includes Ravel's Shéhérazade and Chausson's Poème de l'amour et de la mer. She has an extensive discography of solo recitals and complete opera recordings; her disc of Charles Ives songs with Pierre-Laurent Aimard won a Grammy; and Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, in which she sings Dido, received a Grammy nomination and France's Maria Callas award. The New York Times review stated: "Ms. Graham ... paints Dido as passionate from the start. 'When I Am Laid in Earth' is as wrenching an account as you'll find on disc."
Susan Graham was Musical America's 2004 Vocalist of the Year, and in 2006 her home town of Midland, Texas, declared September 5th "Susan Graham Day." Graham sang "Bless This House" at George W. Bush's second inauguration on January 20, 2005. She is a US delegate for UNESCO.