Plenty of Confidence, and No Pants

By Matthew Gurewitsch
New York Times

AS an encore at her recitals Susan Graham often sings the song “Sexy Lady.” Written for her by the composer and lyricist Ben Moore, it’s the comic complaint of a star mezzo-soprano trapped in an endless round of trouser roles: lovesick adolescents in operas by Mozart and Strauss, dysfunctional knights in Handel.

Fans laugh, but honestly, Ms. Graham’s feminine allure has never been in doubt. Just under six feet tall, she has always cut a glamorous figure on the concert stage, with or without the millions of dollars’ worth of diamonds Cartier decked her out in two seasons ago to celebrate the release of her CD “Poèmes de l’Amour,” a collection of French orchestral songs including Ravel’s sumptuous “Shéhérazade.” At the opera the flibbertigibbet Dorabella in Mozart’s “Così Fan Tutte” and the heartsick Charlotte in Massenet’s “Werther” have given her time off from the male roles she continues to perform with boyish panache. True, Ms. Graham has never tried Bizet’s Carmen or Saint-Saëns’s Dalila; their music, she says, wants a smoky sound that is nothing like hers.

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