Skip to content
BSO, Pops, Tanglewood, and Symphony Hall Logos

Susan Graham

Heashot of Susan Graham wearing a black dress and resting her head on her hand.


Susan Graham rose to the highest echelon of international performers within just a few years of her professional debut, mastering an astonishing range of repertoire and genres along the way. Her operatic roles span four centuries, from Monteverdi’s Poppea to Sister Helen Prejean in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, which was written especially for her. A familiar face at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, she also maintains a strong international presence at such key venues as Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet, the Santa Fe Opera, and the Hollywood Bowl. She won a Grammy Award for her collection of Ives songs and has also been recognized throughout her career as one of the foremost exponents of French vocal music. Although a native of Texas, she was awarded the French government’s prestigious Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur for her popularity as a performer in France and her commitment to French music.

This season, Graham performs her celebrated portrayal of Mrs. Patrick De Rocher, mother of the convicted murderer, in the Metropolitan Opera’s season-opening company premiere of Dead Man Walking conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. She also debuts with Detroit Opera for Europeras 4. Graham began the 2022-23 season with Music from Copland House premiering A Standing Witness, a new work written for her by Richard Danielpour with text by Rita Dove. She then sang the role of Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s 2022 gala with Fabio Luisi alongside Thomas Hampson. She performed the role of Geneviève in Sir David McVicar’s production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at the Los Angeles Opera with James Conlon and reprised the role with the Santa Fe Opera.

Before the pandemic, Graham sang Mrs. Patrick De Rocher in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s company premiere of Dead Man Walking. In concert, she sang Berlioz’s La Mort de Cléopâtre and excerpts from Les Troyens with Sir Donald Runnicles and the orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin at the Berlin Musikfest. She partnered with pianist Malcolm Martineau for recitals of Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder in Berkeley’s Cal Performances series and of her Schumann-inspired Frauenliebe und -leben: Variations program in Fort Worth’s Cliburn Concert Series and at New York’s Lincoln Center. Graham joined Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra for Mahler’s Third Symphony at London’s BBC Proms and in Berlin, Leipzig, Vienna, Lucerne, and Paris. She made her role debut as Humperdinck’s Witch in Hansel and Gretel at LA Opera, hosted An Evening with Susan Graham at Dallas’s Meyerson Symphony Center, sang Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne with David Robertson and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, headlined the Mayshad Foundation’s season-closing gala concert in Marrakech, and returned to Carnegie Hall, first with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and then with Alec Baldwin and Leonard Slatkin for the Manhattan School of Music’s Centennial Gala Concert. To mark the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death, she performed Les Nuits d’été with the Houston Symphony and made her New Zealand debut in La Mort de Cléopâtre with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under Edo de Waart. Other highlights of recent seasons include starring in Trouble in Tahiti at Lyric Opera of Chicago to honor the Bernstein Centennial, making her title role debut opposite James Morris in Marc Blitzstein’s 1948 opera Regina at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and appearing alongside Anna Netrebko, Renée Fleming, and other luminaries to celebrate the Metropolitan Opera’s five decades at its Lincoln Center home.

Graham’s earliest operatic successes were in trouser roles such as Cherubino in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. Her technical expertise soon brought mastery of Mozart’s more virtuosic roles, like Sesto in La Clemenza di Tito, Idamante in Idomeneo, and Cecilio in Lucio Silla, as well as the title roles in Handel’s Ariodante and Xerxes. She went on to triumph in two iconic Richard Strauss mezzo roles, Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier and the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos. These brought her to prominence on all the world’s major opera stages, including the Met, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Covent Garden, Paris Opera, La Scala, Bavarian State Opera, Vienna State Opera, and the Salzburg Festival, among many others. In addition to creating the role of Sister Helen Prejean at San Francisco Opera, she starred in Washington National Opera’s recent revival of Dead Man Walking, making her triumphant role debut as the convict’s mother. She also sang the leading ladies in the Met’s world premieres of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby and Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy, and made her Dallas Opera debut as Tina in a new production of The Aspern Papers by Dominick Argento. As Houston Grand Opera’s Lynn Wyatt Great Artist, she starred as Prince Orlofsky in the company’s first staging of Die Fledermaus in 30 years, before heading an all-star cast as Sycorax in the Met’s Baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island and making her rapturously received musical theater debut in a new production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.

It was in an early Lyon production of Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict that Graham scored particular raves from the international press, and a triumph in the title role of Massenet’s Chérubin at Covent Garden sealed her operatic stardom. Further invitations to collaborate on French music were forthcoming from many of its preeminent conductors, including Sir Colin Davis, Charles Dutoit, James Levine, and Seiji Ozawa. New productions of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride, Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust, and Massenet’s Werther were mounted for the mezzo in New York, London, Paris, Chicago, San Francisco, and beyond. More recently, she made title role debuts in Offenbach’s comic masterpieces La Belle Hélène and The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein at Santa Fe Opera, as well as proving herself the standout star of the Met’s star-studded revival of Les Troyens, which was broadcast live to cinema audiences worldwide in the company’s celebrated Live in HD series. Graham’s affinity for French repertoire has not been limited to the opera stage, also serving as the foundation for her extensive concert and recital career. Such great cantatas and symphonic song cycles as Berlioz’s La Mort de Cléopâtre and Les Nuits d’été, Ravel’s Shéhérazade, and Chausson’s Poème de l’amour et de la mer provide opportunities for collaborations with the world’s leading orchestras, and she makes regular appearances with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, and London Symphony Orchestra.

Graham recently expanded her distinguished discography with Nonesuch Records’ DVD/Blu-ray release of William Kentridge’s new treatment of Berg’s Lulu, which captures her celebrated role debut as Countess Geschwitz at the Met. She has also recorded all the works described above, as well as appearing on a series of lauded solo albums, including "Virgins, Vixens & Viragos" on the Onyx label, featuring songs and arias by composers from Purcell to Sondheim; "Un Frisson Français," a program of French song recorded with pianist Malcolm Martineau, also for Onyx; "C’est ça la vie, c’est ça l’amour!," an album of 20th-century operetta rarities on Erato; and "La Belle Époque," an award-winning collection of songs by Reynaldo Hahn with pianist Roger Vignoles, from Sony Classical. Among the mezzo’s numerous honors are Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year and an Opera News Award, while Gramophone magazine has dubbed her “America’s favorite mezzo.”

See More