Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Merola Opera Program gives prestigious award to mezzo-soprano Susan Graham

During a private reception on Saturday, July 14, the Merola Opera Program presented mezzo-soprano Susan Graham with the Merola Distinguished Alumni Award. The award, which has only been given out six times in the program’s 54 year history, is given to recognize extraordinary contributions to the world of opera by graduates of the Merola Opera Program. Susan Graham will join past winners Thomas Hampson, Patrick Summers, Ruth Ann Swenson, Carol Vaness, Deborah Voigt and Dolora Zajick as a recipient of Merola’s highest honor.

Donna Blacker, Merola Board President lauds Graham's achievements by saying:
This award recognizes those Merola alumni that have gone on to forge truly remarkable careers – careers that change the face of opera. As one of the world’s foremost stars of opera and recital, the compelling and versatile Susan Graham is most deserving of this honor. Regarded as ‘America’s Favorite mezzo’ by Gramophone magazine, Susan’s astonishing voice, presence and charisma have captivated audiences around the world. Merola is extremely proud to have her as a distinguished alumna.
Celebrated as an expert in French music, Graham was named Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur by the French government. Recently, she sang Mahler's Rückert-Lieder with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony and recorded the song cycle for the Symphony's own record label. Other recent performances include: Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier with the Metropolitan Opera; Dido in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Nicholas McGegan; Berlioz's Damnation de Faust with Lyric Opera of Chicago, the title role in Handel's Xerxes with San Francisco Opera; and Chausson's Poème de l'amour et de la mer with the New York Philharmonic under Sir Andrew Davis.

Graham as Marguerite in the Met's 'Damnation of Faust'
Known for her performances reviving Gluck operas, Graham sang the title role of Iphigénie en Tauride in a new production staged for her by the Metropolitan Opera which was also performed at Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera and Royal Opera House.

At home and abroad, Susan Graham has sung leading roles from the 17th to 20th centuries in the great opera houses of the world, including The Metropolitan Opera, Milan's La Scala, Royal Opera House, Vienna State Opera, Opéra national de Paris, Dresden's Semperoper and the Salzburg Festival. In addition, she has appeared with many of the world's leading conductors and orchestras.

Born in New Mexico and raised in Texas, Susan Graham studied at Texas Tech University and the Manhattan School of Music, which awarded her an honorary Doctor of Music in 2008. She won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and the Schwabacher Award from San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program, as well as a Career Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation. Graham was Musical America's 2004 Vocalist of the Year, and in 2006 her hometown of Midland, Texas declared September 5 “Susan Graham Day” in perpetuity.

As for the Merola Opera Program, Susan Graham says:
Merola changes the lives of young singers, making possible something that, 25 years ago, I never dreamed would happen to me. It provides a springboard and exposure to the opera world and as they say in New York, ‘If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.’ I cherish this award and Merola will be in my heart forever.

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