Joining a rare natural warmth with a fierce commitment to the transforming communicative power of music, Dawn Upshaw has achieved worldwide celebrity as a singer of opera and concert repertoire ranging from the sacred works of Bach to the freshest sounds of today. Her ability to reach to the heart of music and text has earned her both the devotion of an exceptionally diverse audience, and the awards and distinctions accorded to only the most distinguished of artists. In 2007, she was named a Fellow of the MacArthur Foundation, the first vocal artist to be awarded the five-year "genius" prize, and in 2008 she was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
Her acclaimed performances on the opera stage comprise the great Mozart roles (Pamina, Ilia, Susanna, Despina) as well as modern works by Stravinsky, Poulenc, and Messiaen. From Salzburg, Paris, and Glyndebourne to the Metropolitan Opera, where she began her career in 1984 and has since made nearly 300 appearances, Dawn Upshaw has also championed numerous new works created for her including The Great Gatsby by John Harbison; the Grawemeyer Award-winning opera, L'amour de loin and oratorio La Passion de Simone by Kaija Saariaho; John Adams' Nativity oratorio El Niño; and Osvaldo Golijov's chamber opera Ainadamar and song cycle Ayre.
Ms. Upshaw's 2010-11 season opened with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in performances of Golijov and Canteloube at the Tanglewood Music Festival. She tours Europe in Peter Sellars's acclaimed production of Kurtag's Kafka Fragments, reprises her celebrated role in John Adams's ElNiño with the San Francisco Symphony, and begins a second three-year term as artistic partner with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, with whom she also appears at Carnegie Hall as part of the Spring for Music series. She sings world premieres of five new works written for her, including a chamber piece by Donnacha Dennehy and the Crash Ensemble in Dublin, slated for release on Nonesuch Records; a new work by Joan Tower at the Morgan Library as part of a program by the Bard College Conservatory of Music Graduate Vocal Arts Program; a co-commission with the Terezin Foundation and the Prague Spring Festival by Pablo Ortiz; a vocal and chamber orchestra commission from Gabriela Frank for the SPCO; and a jazz-inflected score by Maria Schneider for the Australian Chamber Orchestra, with first performances at the 2011 Ojai Festival where Ms. Upshaw is the music director. There she curates and performs a series of concerts with the ACO, as well as a new production by Peter Sellars that features Ms. Upshaw in selections from George Crumb's American Songbooks. Co-produced by Cal Performances, this work is among the highlights of U.C. Berkeley's Celebrity Series offering, "Ojai North."
It says much about Dawn Upshaw's sensibilities as an artist and colleague that she is a favored partner of many leading musicians, including Richard Goode, the Kronos Quartet, James Levine, and Esa-Pekka Salonen. In her work as a recitalist, and particularly in her work with composers, Dawn Upshaw has become a generative force in concert music, having premiered more than 25 works in the past decade. From Carnegie Hall to large and small venues throughout the world she regularly presents specially designed programs composed of lieder, unusual contemporary works in many languages, and folk and popular music. She furthers this work in master classes and workshops with young singers at major music festivals, conservatories, and liberal arts colleges. She is artistic director of the Vocal Arts Program at the Bard College Conservatory of Music, and a faculty member of the Tanglewood Music Center.
A four-time Grammy Award winner, Dawn Upshaw is featured on more than 50 recordings, including the million-selling Symphony No. 3 by Henryk Gorecki. Her discography also includes full-length opera recordings of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro; Messiaen's St. Francois d'Assise; Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress; John Adams's El Niño; two volumes of Canteloube's Songs of the Auvergne, and a dozen recital recordings. Her most recent release on Deutsche Grammophon is Three Songs for Soprano and Orchestra, the third in a series of acclaimed recordings of Osvaldo Golijov's music.
Dawn Upshaw holds honorary doctorate degrees from Yale, the Manhattan School of Music, Allegheny College, and Illinois Wesleyan University. She began her career as a 1984 winner of the Young Concert Artists Auditions and the 1985 Walter W. Naumburg Competition, and was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Young Artists Development Program.
updated: April 5, 2011