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NZSO goes out of this world with The Planets

18 February 2019 - NZSO media release for immediate release

NZSO goes out of this world with The Planets and opera star Susan Graham

Grammy Award-winning American mezzo-soprano Susan Graham will perform for the first time with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in Wellington and Auckland in March.

Hailed as “an artist to treasure” by The New York Times, Graham will sing French composer Hector Berlioz’s spellbinding La Mort de Cléopâtre (The Death of Cleopatra). The piece is performed in The Planets, the first of NZSO Music Director Edo de Waart’s 2019 Masterworks concert series.

The Planets, in association with the New Zealand Listener, features English composer Gustav Holst’s famous work, which inspired the composers of the Star Wars and Gladiator movies. The NZSO’s performance of Holst’s masterpiece will include the Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir.

“Berlioz’s La Mort de Cléopâtre is a tour de force for a world-class mezzo-soprano,” says Maestro de Waart, who has previously worked with Graham. “Holst’s The Planets is also one of my favourite pieces in the canon of popular classics.”

Over her 30-year career, Graham has performed in the world’s great opera houses, including the Paris Opera, New York’s The Met, Milan’s La Scala and Covent Garden Royal Opera House.

She won a Grammy Award for her recording of songs by American composer Charles Ives and was lauded for her role in the acclaimed operatic adaptation of Dead Man Walking. She has sung with fellow opera star Renée Fleming in Der Rosenkavalier and joined Plácido Domingo in celebrations marking The Met’s 50th anniversary.

Graham’s passion for French vocal music has been recognised by the French government, which awarded her the prestigious Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. In 2009 she was nominated for two Grammys: Best Vocal Peformance for Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique and Best Classical Vocal Performance for Un Frission Franais.

The Planets includes the New Zealand premiere of an inventive work by British acoustic and electro-acoustic composer Anna Clyne. Clyne, based in the United States, has been praised for her collaborations with choreographers, artists, film-makers, leading orchestras and musicians. The New York Times describes her as a “composer of uncommon gifts and unusual methods”, and by Time Out New York as “dazzlingly inventive”.

The NZSO will perform three movements from Clyne’s Abstractions, a work inspired by several artworks in the Baltimore Museum of Art. Maestro de Waart has previously conducted a Clyne work and is delighted that the NZSO will perform Abstractions. “It is wonderful, evocative music.”

Another of Clyne’s works, Prince of Clouds, was nominated for a Best Contemporary Classical Composition Grammy Award in 2015.


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