Music review: Susan Graham at the Valley Performing Arts Center
Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham inhabited many fascinating women, from the Virgin Mary to Lady Macbeth, in her splendid recital Wednesday at the Valley Performing Arts Center in Northridge. She drew all vividly and credibly, singing with vocal poise and silvery tone, and interpreting the texts with detailed, knowing emphasis.
But Graham got most personal in Ben Moore’s “Sexy Lady.” Composed for her, this jazzy song, with witty wordplay and musical quotations, bemoans the cross-dressing roles that mezzos such as Graham often take on. (Who would have expected anyone to rhyme “David Daniels” with “cocker spaniel”?) Even the role Jake Heggie wrote for her, she joked from the stage, Sister Helen Prejean in the opera “Dead Man Walking,” was “a sexless nun.”
Well, she wants the world to know that there’s lots of fire within.
But first came the “good girls” — the Virgin, Ophelia and Goethe’s Mignon in settings by six different composers, all presented in a svelte white gown. She sang Purcell’s “The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation” with restrained grace. Berlioz’s delicate “La Mort d’Ophélie” was poignant. The settings of Mignon by Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Duparc and Wolf grew increasingly dramatic and expansive.
Throughout, pianist Malcolm Martineau was an inspired collaborator.
Encores included Mary Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim’s “The Boy From ...,” a parody of “The Girl From Ipanema,” and her favorite song, Reynaldo Hahn’s “À Chloris.”
— Chris Pasles
Photo: Susan Graham. Credit: Dario Acosta