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Susan Graham in Madrid:   Teatro Real's 14th Lieder Series.  Gounod,.Saint Saens, Paladilhe and others. Susan Graham (mezzosoprano) Malcolm Martineau (piano) Teatro de la Zarzuela, Madrid  11.2.2008. (JMI)

The Teatro de la Zarzuela has been organizing  lieder  concertsfor years (we are on the 14th cycle), to  which it invites significant figures from  the international scene.  This time it was the turn of American mezzosoprano Susan Graham, one of the most important artists of the present time, who regrettably has been absent for too long from our country,  at least in opera performances. Understandably, Madrid song aficionados had high expectations of this recital and they were not disappointed even slightly. This was a truly  memorable recital of French songs.

Ms.Graham came to Madrid with a program totally dedicated to French music, in which there were no concessions to the gallery. This is local cycle of lieder and  songs and that is exactly what she  brought us, proving  that there is no need of acrobatics or vocal fireworks for great success.

The performance was absolutely brilliant, and it is difficultb toknow what to emphasize most: her perfect musicality, her expressiveness or her immense talent as exceptional interpreter. Everything she sang was at the highest level, but I would like to mention particularly Gounod's  'Où voulez-vous aller?' , 'La Danse Macabre' by Saint Saens,  Paladilhe's most touching 'Psyché',  Debussy's 'Five Po
èmes de Baudelaire' and  the ethereal pianissimi of Bachelet's  'Chère Nuit'. There was also a fine 'Vocalise-Etude' by Fauré, abreathtaking  'Brezairola' from Canteloube's Chansons De L'Auvergne and an extremely   funny interpretation of 'La Souris d' Angleterre'  by Rosenthal. An exceptionally   moving account of Poulenc's  'La Dame de Montecarlo' brought the recital to a close, ending a brilliant programme of  25 songs in all.

What a great Mélisande she would be on stage!, although it is difficult to think of a Pelléas to match her  either vocally or physically.  This  is an artist in full command of her faculties, who, without any kind of concession to 'popularity', had the whole audienve gasping for breath with delight. A  lady  leaving  the theater said to me,  “ I would very much like to know what problems this singer has, because it is just not possible to be perfect in everything. She is beautiful, elegant, sings  like an angel, is a great actress and, in addition to all that, she is also so nice to the public.”  I can nothing whatever to this. Malcolm  Martineau at the piano was the perfect complement to Ms.Graham and they both shared a well-deserved triumph.

José M. Irurzun

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