V0495. DAWN UPSHAW, w.David Zinman Cond.: Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (Barber); Menotti, Harbison & Stravinsky. [1989 Grammy Award Winner] Nonesuch 79187, recorded 1988. Final Copy! - 075597918724
This Nonesuch debut, featuring Samuel Barber's title piece, garnered Upshaw a Grammy for Best Classical Vocal Soloist Performance. "If you want just one recording of Knoxville," says Gramophone, "it should be Upshaw's. In no other version is the intimacy of Barber's music so poignantly conveyed." The Washington Post called Knoxville “dreamily evocative” and declared Upshaw “one of the most impressive young singers on the American scene.”
“Dawn Upshaw's is a voice of many modes. Often, in her timbre, there is an edge-of-the seat tension that pulls the audience along inexorably, breathlessly and yet, miraculously, without ever making us tense ourselves. Elsewhere, she can produce a tone and a line so effortless, so restful, so serene that it conjures an effect of pure peace in sonic form. But there is more than voice to Upshaw's art. It is the way she places her ravishing sound at the service of her extraordinary communicative powers that captures our hearts and minds. A catch phrase with great currency among performers is the goal of ‘taking ownership of the music’. With Upshaw, the alchemy goes a step further: the music seems to take possession of her, so that she is no longer merely playing a character or shaping a melodic line but giving breath to the living spirit of the piece.”
- Louise T. Guinther, OPERA NEWS, April, 2013
“Dawn Upshaw is a leading American soprano, known for her exceptional interest in contemporary music, and is highly active as a recitalist. She went to New York to study voice with Ellen Faull at Manhattan School of Music, earning her Masters Degree there in 1984. Success came very quickly. She won 1984's Young Concert Artists Auditions, after which James Levine, Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera, invited her to join the Metropolitan Opera Studio. In 1985 she was co-winner of the Naumburg Competition in New York. Her initial operatic appearances there were as minor characters. Her first professional recital was in Alice Tully Hall in New York in 1986. The recital drew acclaim not only for the quality and intelligence of her singing, but for the uniquely informed and adventurous choice of repertoire.
Soon she was receiving leading roles in opera, and has appeared in many of the world's major operatic venues. Her leading roles include all leading roles in all the major Mozart operas, Sophie in Massenet's WERTHER, both Constance and Blanche in Poulenc's DIALOGUES DES CARMÉLITES, Mélisande in Debussy's PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE, the Angel in Messiaen's ST. FRANÇOISE D'ASSISE, and Ann Trulove in Stravinsky's THE RAKE'S PROGRESS. She created the role of Daisy Buchanan in John Harbison's THE GREAT GATSBY in its world premiere at the Met, and the title role in Kaija Saariaho's CLEMENCE at the Salzburg Festival. Her portrayal of Handel's Theodora in 1996 at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, a production directed by Peter Sellars, was a triumph.”
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com
“In her novel THE SONG OF THE LARK, written in 1914, Willa Cather tells of a singer, Thea Kronborg (modeled on the soprano Olive Fremstad), as she progresses from a sturdy childhood in Moonstone, Colo., to triumphs in her early 30s at the Metropolitan Opera. ‘Thea's scale of values will always be the Moonstone scale’, she writes. ‘And, with an artist, that is an advantage....It keeps them from getting affected...keeps them from getting off the track generally’.
Dawn Upshaw has established a distinctive place of her own as an opera singer and recitalist [and] has much in common with Cather's heroine: She found her vocation only in her late teens but was then drawn irresistibly to the expressive bonding of words and music. Her artistic development came quickly and was sustained by values acquired early in life.
In 1988, Ms. Upshaw's operatic career advanced unexpectedly when, on an hour's notice, she was called on to replace an indisposed Kathleen Battle as Adina in Donizetti's L’ELISIR D'AMORE. ‘I had never rehearsed the opera from beginning to end, and never with orchestra’, she said. ‘The greatest difficulty was gauging the amount of stamina I needed to get through the evening’. John Rockwell of THE TIMES called the result ‘a highly successful, charming performance, as might have been expected from one of the most critically admired singers of her generation’."
- David Blum, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 24 April, 1994