She was born and raised in Philadephia. But she spent her last two years of high school in Santa Fe, New Mexico. One summer she worked as an usher at the Santa Fe Opera – and that was how she first got interested in the art. She was hooked on choral music (and still loves it) and sang in her church choir, but singing was not really her thing.
Or so she thought.
Until she went to the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California to study music therapy – and her teachers immediately saw she had a talent for performing. She was chosen to apprentice at the Aspen Music Festival that summer, and though a total neophyte, she beat the competition for the “trousers” role of Nicklausse (in Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann). And that was how she got really hooked on opera. So she left the farmlands of Stockton for the vastly more sophisticated world of the Juilliard School where she stayed on to earn both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music.
In 1983 she made her European debut – and that was the start of her rise in the opera world. She spent the next years singing mostly in Europe. In 1987 she moved with her family to Chicago and launched her US career. In 1988 she made her MET debut, and her career moved on at an even more dizzying pace. She sang one new role after another, criss-crossing the Atlantic as she fulfilled the demands of a career that was rising fast in both Europe and America. Soon, she became one of the world’s most sought-after mezzo-sopranos….
A DIVA, YES! But without the affectations of one… so secure and down-to-earth, it doesn’t bother her one bit that people often don’t recognize her once she walks out the stage door after a stellar performance. And when you read that she has no deep-seated need to be famous, if you have been around her even for only one brief moment, you can believe it. For Susanne Mentzer, it is enough that life has been good to her, that she can do her work, and that she has attained fame where it counts most – in the hearts and minds of the world’s true opera lovers.
One of today’s foremost mezzo-sopranos, Susanne was among the first of FanFaire’s featured-artists. She is internationally recognized for her generous vocal and interpretive gifts and widely admired for her versatility on both the concert and operatic stage. Highly acclaimed for her portrayals of the plum trouser roles in the operatic repertoire (e.g., Cherubino in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Octavian in R. Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, and the Komponist in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos among many others, she is also noted for her bel canto interpretations of Rossini’s heroines in Il Barbiere Siviglia and La Cenerentola, Bellini’s Adalgisa in Norma and Romeo in I Capuleti ed i Montecchi.
In addition, she has a great interest in new works; she created the role of the Mother in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Tan Dun’s first opera, The First Emperor with Placido Domingo in the title role. Susanne also enjoys a significant concert and recital career, with a particular interest in chamber music. She is also well-known as a Mahler interpreter and a proponent of women composers. She has an extensive discography and videography of opera and concert repertory and has appeared on “Live from the Met, Live from Lincoln Center” on PBS.
An established pedagogue, for over 12 years she was a Professor of Voice at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music and has taught at DePaul University and on the faculty of the Aspen Music Festival and School. Susanne has degrees from The Juilliard School and was trained in the Houston Opera Studio. A mentor and inspiration to young singers she serves on the board of The George London Foundation and The W.M. Sullivan Foundation, teaches master classes in conjunction with her performances. She also teaches privately on the West Coast where she now resides.
Susanne recently released a premiere recording of songs by the eminent Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Carlisle Floyd entitled “Letter to the World.”-© Gloria Cajipe / FanFaire.com
Photo credits: Stewart O’Shields, Courtesy: Jay K. Hoffmann & Associates & Susanne Mentzer; Metropolitan Opera