Among the celebrated singers of our time, Dawn Upshaw stands out as an artist of uncommon gifts and imagination. Whether on the opera or recital stage, as a proponent of new music or musical theatre, or in television or recording, her ability to reach to the core of text and music has earned her the devotion of an exceptionally diverse audience throughout the world.
Applauded in the opera houses of New York, Paris, Salzburg, and Vienna for her portrayals of the great Mozart roles (Pamina, Ilia, Susanna, Cherubino), Ms Upshaw is also renowned for her work in modern repertoire. She has performed as Anne Trulove in numerous productions of The Rake’s Progress, and as Mélisande in Pelléas et Mélisande both in Paris and at the Met. In Salzburg, she sang the role of the Angel in the celebrated production of Messiaen’s St. Françoise d’Assise. In 2000, Upshaw takes on three new roles written for her in, respectively, Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de loin at the Salzburg Festival; John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby at Lyric Opera of Chicago, and John Adams’s El Nino at the Châtelet in Paris.
It says much about Ms Upshaw’s sensibilities as an artist and colleague that she is a favoured partner of many leading musicians and stage directors of our day, including Richard Goode, Kronos Quartet, James Levine, Michael Mayer, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Peter Sellars, and Robert Wilson. Recent collaborations include a staged musical theatre evening commissioned by Lincoln Center, Round About, and a staging, by Peter Sellars, of Bach’s Cantata BWV 199, performed at the Salzburg Festival. This season, she continues her collaboration with the Kronos Quartet, as well as reprising Pierrot Lunaire and Cosí fan tutte with James Levine. She appears with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, and performs Britten’s Les Illuminations with Antonio Pappano and the orchestras of Chicago and Cleveland. In her work as a recitalist, where Margo Garrett and Gilbert Kalish are frequent partners, Ms Upshaw evinces a freshness of conception and a naturalness of manner that are credited with helping to revitalise the song recital. This season, she appears at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and Boston’s Jordan Hall, among others, presenting varied programs of music that have brought her distinction throughout the world.
Deeply involved in the music of our time, Ms Upshaw has brought it to a wider public than perhaps any other singer of her generation. Since 1993, she has given over 30 world premieres, including works for orchestra and voice by Philip Glass, Christopher Rouse, and Judith Weir, and songs by Henri Dutilleux, Osvaldo Golijov, and Gabriela Ortiz, among many others. The million-selling recording of Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 is but one of her award-winning Nonesuch disks that features Ms Upshaw in music of today. In music theatre, her recordings “I Wish It So” and “Dawn Upshaw Sings Vernon Duke” attest to an equal affinity for popular song, repertoire she has offered in appearances to benefit Classical Action, an advocacy organisation for AIDS research.
A familiar performer on television, Ms. Upshaw most recently hosted the “Copland Centennial Celebration” on PBS. A one-hour documentary portrait, “Dawn Upshaw: Intimate Collaborations”, which features her work with Richard Goode, Peter Sellars and Eric Stern, premiered on European television and will be broadcast on Bravo in 2001. “Dawn at Dusk”, a live BBC broadcast from the London Proms Festival, featured American music from Copland and Weill to Sondheim and Bernstein. She has also been a guest of the President on the NBC special “Christmas in Washington” and a featured artist in the PBS productions “Evening at Pops”, “Leonard Bernstein’s New York”, “I Hear America Singing” and “Some Enchanted Evening”.
Named Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year in 2000, Ms Upshaw holds a master’s degree and an honorary doctorate from the Manhattan School of Music. She graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University, and began her career as a 1984 winner of the Young Concert Artists auditions and the 1985 Walter W. Naumburg Competition. She was also a member of the Metropolitan Opera Young Artists Development Program, which provided many of her first appearances on the opera stage. Born in Nashville, Tennessee and raised in Park Forest, Illinois she now lives near New York City with her husband and their two young children.