The audience pours into a warm, intimate theater. Gold backlighting illuminates a gleaming organ above the stage, castle-like. These elements invoke dream and fantasy, but within earshot is a discussion about meat and potatoes. We are comfortable.
And then our king and queen arrive. Susan Graham is authorative and compelling, and impressive Malcolm Martineau, perfectly matched with the gleaming grand piano. The music begins immediately, and this regal duo presides over their musical kingdom.
The program began with Graham and Martineau’s adaption of a score by Reynaldo Hahn, followed by Gustav Mahler’s Rückert Lieder series, Hector Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été, Handel’s Serse, and ending with a stunning rendition of “Deh, per questo istante solo” from Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito.
Susan is wearing a long black gown, adorned in striking electric blue. She relaxes against the piano, from which she seems to summon her powerful mezzo-soprano. Between sets, she and Martineau grip hands, perhaps sharing their power, and also letting us feel like we share that grip.
Malcolm Martineau is playful, whimsical. His work can be described as the “shining tears of the watering can” upon “the specter of the rose,” —apt lyrics from a song performed in their Berlioz set.
The show is marked with impressive applauses, laughter, and gasping. When Susan and Malcolm step off the stage, we can’t bear it. For the final set: a scene from Serse, and a pleading Mozart aria, she glides back on stage in a chic black one-piece, casually explaining how each movement works: ‘This is an homage… to a tree. In Serse!” It is a windy day in Berkeley, and patting down her clothes and hair she quips “this is why God made hairspray”. She is glorious, she is human.
Hertz Hall at Cal Performances at UC Berkeley Was In Awe
Susan Graham and Malcolm Martineau present themes of love, rebirth, romanticism, and longing to us in the most gentle, intimate of ambiences. The lyrics are in the French, German, and Italian, but her expressions and stance lifts us into somewhere where we can understand anything. We feel close to her and Martineau, while also realizing the powerful grip they have over us. Graham drew the applause to a close with her hands and her eyes. We obeyed her. Hertz hall was in awe.
Susan Graham and Malcolm Martineau’s mezzo-soprano and piano performance will likely have a strong appeal to anyone interested in opera and music.--for classical music connoisseurs, to those who have seen Graham and Martineau dozens of times before.
About the Author:
Theressa Malone is a writer and editor based in San Francisco, CA, currently working for the Berkeley Review of Fiction. Born and raised in a tiny sheep-village in New Zealand, she is deeply interested in postcolonial literature and theory as it pertains to the constant fluctuations on that Island. When she's not writing, you can find her reading.
She recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Comparative Literature, German Language, and Rhetoric.