Between her November performances as Dido in Henry Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” on the West Coast and her January return to New York’s Metropolitan Opera as Octavian in Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier,” mezzo-soprano Susan Graham will stop at the Ordway tonight with her longtime collaborator, pianist Malcolm Martineau, for a recital devoted to French song.
The recital, part of the Schubert Club’s International Artist Series concerts, will contain many of the 22 songs from “Un Frisson Francais: A Century of French Song,” an album Graham and Martineau recorded for the Onyx Classics label last year, which in turn came out of a series of 2007 concerts by the duo. Describing the disc on her website, Graham calls it “a rich tapestry — from Bizet to Poulenc — and it provides a delicious variety of romantic, saucy, lush, humorous and offbeat songs.”
As a bona fide diva, the 49-year-old Graham certainly has the emotional range to satisfy such a potpourri, although the program — two dozen French songs, divided by intermission between those composed in the 19th century and those in the 20th century — is a different bill to fill from an extended opera performance. Yet it is serendipitous that the French program neatly complements the opening series of performances by new SPCO artistic partner Christian Zacharias last weekend, also at the Ordway, which likewise had its Poulenc and Bizet and Satie-influenced songs.
Graham mostly emphasizes the variety, saying, “If they were food and you were in a restaurant, these songs would be the entire appetizer menu, and you’d have to order them all.” That kind of repertoire from such a well-regarded singer, who performed at George Bush’s second inaugural and performed “Ave Maria” at Sen. Ted Kennedy’s funeral in October, sound like a good balance between sophistication and informality.
Here are Graham and Martineau doing humor on this Carnegie Hall concert recording of “I Can Be a Sexy Lady.” And here is Graham as a guest on the Martha Stewart show.
Susan Graham, with pianist Malcolm Martineau, as part of the Schubert Club’s International Artist Series, at the Ordway Performing Arts Center, tonight at 8; tickets are $15-$50.