These are the many C O L O R S of her beautiful voice…
American mezzo soprano Susanne Mentzer is best known for her portrayals of the travesti parts (Italian for “pants” or “trouser” roles) of the lyric repertory. Cherubino, Idamante, Sextus, Octavian, the Composer to name the better known – she has sung them all to critical acclaim.
Although she has been singing the skirted mezzo roles of the repertory more often in the more recent past, she continues to sing these”trouser” roles today. Her superb portrayal of Romeo in the LA Opera production of Bellini’s I Capuleti I Montecchi was most convincing. But when she swaps trousers for corsets the result is as visually and vocally stunning.
Yes, this diva is as pleasing to the eye as to the ear! Critics and audiences are one in praise of her delightful Dorabella (in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte) whose singing creates “waves of smooth vocal beauty” (-NY Times). Her comic skills serve her well in this role as they do in the soubrette role of the peasant girl Zerlina (in Mozart’s Don Giovanni) which she sang for the first time at La Scala in 1987 at the invitation of Maestro Ricardo Muti. (This performance is available on DVD.)
She also has a natural instinct for the dramatic. Her splendid portrayal of Adalgisa (in Bellini’s Norma) has been hailed as “…another gem in her crown of great Italian coloratura performances. Brilliant, lustrous, emotionally communicative singing… joined to a superb dramatic portrayal of Adalgisa…” (- American Record Guide) is typical of the many accolades she received following performances of Norma in Europe and America.
Susanne Mentzer, who started her career singing the lyric mezzo-soprano roles of grand opera, has done “new” things as well. She sang Melisande in a new production of Debussy’s only completed opera Pelleas et Melisande at the Opera Bastille in Paris. And having “discovered” baroque opera, she sang the title role in Handel’s Giulio Cesare – also in a new production at the Opera Bastille.
She also performs in the more intimate setting of a recital hall where she has revealed herself to be a most compelling singer of Lieder, the German art song. Her acclaimed performances in concert and in recital, (e.g., with the noted accompanist Martin Katz, with award-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin, with such great orchestras as the New York Philharmonic and the Dresden Staatskapelle) attest to her versatility as a soloist. Can just anyone get away with singing a program of Lieder by Mahler and Schumann, songs by Erik Satie, Rossini’s “Una vocce poco fa”, and traditional American folk songs? Susanne Mentzer does, and a disbelieving but warmly appreciative audience – some hearing her for the first time – always love her for it! As they did when she sang the solo soprano in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with the San Diego Symphony at Compley Symphony Hall where the above photo was taken (Nov. 2005).
In the Metropolitan Opera’s 2006-07 season (which was her artistic home for many years), Susanne Mentzer created the role of Empress – mother of the Princess Yueyang in the world premiere of Tan Dun’s new opera The First Emperor, with Placido DOmingo in the title role, which was beamed in HD to movie theatres nationwide.