High Notes On This Day

A Taste Of Dawn Upshaw’s Passion For Modern Opera

Dawn Upshaw is one of the most respected American sopranos of her generation, having sung at many of the major houses including the Metropolitan Opera. She also performed for the President of the United States.

Currently, Upshaw, born on July 17, 1960, is an educator serving as the Artistic Director of the Graduate Program in Vocal Arts at the Bard College Conservatory of Music, which accepted its first students in the 2006-2007 academic year. She is a faculty member at the Tanglewood Music Center.

But outside of her incredible resume as an educator and singer, Upshaw has been an advocate for contemporary and modern works, having collaborated with several composers and world premiered numerous pieces. Here is a taste of some of the operas she has become associated with.

“L’Amour de Loin by Kaija Saariaho

Last season the Metropolitan Opera brought Saariaho’s opera to the repertory for the first time after having neglected it for over 16 years. The music drama actually had its world premiere at the Salzburg Festival on August 15, 2000 and it was Upshaw who portrayed the role of Clémence. She would reprise it two years later at the Santa Fe Opera.

“The Great Gatsby” by John Harbison

Upshaw portrayed the iconic character of Daisy Buchanan in Harbison’s work. The opera had its world premiere on Dec. 20, 1999 and was later performed in Chicago. Last season it had its European debut at the Semperoper. Despite the mixed reviews, critics agreed that Upshaw was marvelous in the role.

“El Niño” by John Adams

On Dec. 15, 2000, Adams and Upshaw collaborated for the piece that retells the Christmas story.  Composed of 24 songs, “El Niño” was later immortalized as it was recorded for DVD.

“Ainadamar” by Osvaldo Golijov

“Ainadamar” is the first opera by Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov and Upshaw took part in the world premiere in 2003. Since then the piece has been performed extensively around the world and Upshaw was involved in the first recording in 2006 for Deutsche Grammophon.

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