Mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves has portrayed more than 20 operatic heroines, delivered art-song recitals, and sung concert performances of heavyweight works like the Stabat Maters of Rossini and Dvorak, but she’s most widely celebrated as a femme fatale, defining for the current generation the title roles of Bizet’s Carmen and Saint-Saens’s Samson et Dalila. She’s running the risk of being typecast, but she’s got the persona down pat: she plays her temptresses with fiery passion and regal hauteur, and her earthy, sensual voice can melt hearts as well as ensnare them. Graves’s stardom can be credited in part to Placido Domingo, who’s still her frequent stage partner; he took her under his wing when she was understudying for the Houston Grand Opera in the late 80s, and it’s been one peak after another for her ever since. She first sang Delilah at Ravinia in 1992 for a concert performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and her debut with the Lyric Opera–in a winter 2000 production of Carmen created with her in mind–earned ecstatic reviews. This Saturday, the opening night of the Grant Park Orchestra’s summer festival, Graves is the main attraction. She’ll sing the title role in Ravel’s Sheherazade, a seldom revived 1903 song cycle inspired by the mesmerizing storyteller from The Thousand and One Nights–not coincidentally, another femme fatale. She’ll close the show with a selection of spirituals, which she can deliver in stirring renditions worthy of Jessye Norman. Conductor Carlos Kalmar, beginning his second season with the GPO, has also included two 20th-century American works on the program: John Corigliano’s first major orchestral composition, Tournaments, and George Walker’s poignant Lyric for Strings. Rounding out the evening are the overture from Berlioz’s Le corsaire and a second Ravel, Rapsodie espagnole. Saturday, June 16, 7:30 PM, Petrillo Music Shell, Grant Park, Columbus at Jackson; 312-742-4763.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): J. Henry Fair.