Dawn Upshaw

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Dawn Upshaw
Born (1960-07-17) July 17, 1960 (age 62)
Nashville, Tennessee
Years active1984–present

Dawn Upshaw (born July 17, 1960) is an American soprano. She is the recipient of several Grammy Awards and has released a number of Edison Award-winning discs; she performs both opera and art song, and her repertoire spans Baroque to contemporary. Many composers, including Henri Dutilleux, Osvaldo Golijov, John Harbison, Esa-Pekka Salonen, John Adams, and Kaija Saariaho, have written for her. In 2007, she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.[1]

Early life[edit]

Dawn Upshaw was born in Nashville, Tennessee. She began singing while attending Rich East High School in Park Forest, Illinois and was the only female ever promoted to the top choir (the Singing Rockets) as a sophomore, according to choir director Douglas Ulreich. She received a B.A. in 1982 from Illinois Wesleyan University, where she studied voice with Dr. David Nott. She went on to study voice with Ellen Faull at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City, earning her M.M. in 1984. She also attended courses given by Jan DeGaetani at the Aspen Music School. She was a winner of the Young Concert Artists International Auditions (1984) and the Walter M. Naumburg Competition (1985), and was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Young Artists Development Program. Since her start in 1984, Upshaw has made more than 300 appearances at the Metropolitan Opera.


Upshaw came to international fame with her performance on the million-selling recording (1992), with David Zinman, of Symphony No 3 by Henryk Górecki, known as the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (Symfonia pieśni żałosnych).

She has premiered more than twenty-five new works, notably Henri Dutilleux's song-cycle Correspondances, and has embraced several pieces created for her, including the Grawemeyer Award-winning opera L'Amour de Loin by Kaija Saariaho, The Great Gatsby by John Harbison, the nativity oratorio El Niño by John Adams, and Osvaldo Golijov's highly acclaimed chamber opera Ainadamar and song cycle Ayre. In 2009, she premiered David Bruce's song cycle The North Wind was a Woman at the gala opening of the Chamber Music Society of the Lincoln Centre's season.

In addition to her operatic recordings, she has also sung the title role in the first complete recording of the score of Gershwin's Oh, Kay!.[2] She has also recorded albums of songs by Vernon Duke and Rodgers and Hart.[3] Upshaw was a guest of President of the United States Bill Clinton and Mrs. Clinton on the NBC special Christmas in Washington. The BBC presented a prime-time telecast of her 1996 London Proms Concert, Dawn at Dusk, in which she performed songs from American musical theater. Her engagements with James Levine over many years led to a 1997 recording of Claude Debussy songs.

Upshaw appears on an album of Christmas music in association with the male vocal ensemble Chanticleer titled Christmas with Chanticleer featuring special guest Dawn Upshaw for Teldec Classics.[4]

Upshaw tours regularly with pianist Gilbert Kalish. Richard Goode and Margo Garrett are also long-standing partners. She has worked with director Peter Sellars many times, including on his staging of Händel's Theodora at Glyndebourne, his Paris production of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress—as part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen's month-long residency at the Théâtre du Châtelet, 1996—a staging of Bach's cantata Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, BWV 199, presented in the 1995–96 season at New York's 92nd Street Y, and the Salzburg Festival production of Olivier Messiaen's Saint François d'Assise (1998). Upshaw has often performed as a soloist at the annual Ojai Music Festival in California; most recently in 2006, 2008, and 2009. In 2011, she was the music director of the festival, where she performed the world premiere of the Peter Sellers-staged production of George Crumb's work Winds of Destiny. She joined the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra as artistic partner beginning with the 2007–08 season, and she is artistic director of the Graduate Program in Vocal Arts at the Bard College Conservatory of Music, which accepted its first students in the 2006–07 academic year. She also is a faculty member at the Tanglewood Music Center.

Upshaw holds honorary doctorates of arts from Yale University, the Manhattan School of Music, Illinois Wesleyan University, and Allegheny College. She is an Andrew Dickson White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University from 2020 to 2026.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Upshaw is a divorced mother of two. She lives near New York City.[6] She was diagnosed with and treated for early-stage breast cancer in 2006.[7]

Awards and recognition[edit]

1989 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Soloist

1991 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Soloist

2003 Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance

2006 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording

2007 MacArthur Fellowship[1]

2014 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Soloist

Selected discography[edit]


  1. ^ a b MacArthur Foundation
  2. ^ Oh, Kay! restored by Tommy Krasker, starring Dawn Upshaw and Kurt Ollmann, Roxbury Recordings (Nonesuch 1995)
  3. ^ Dawn Upshaw sings Rodgers & Hart, recorded NYC June 1995, (Nonesuch 1996)
  4. ^ "Christmas with Chanticleer". Chanticleer. Archived from the original on June 8, 2019. Retrieved June 8, 2019.
  5. ^ ""Dawn Upshaw"". Program for Andrew D. White Professors-at-Large, Cornell University. September 21, 2020. Archived from the original on February 25, 2021. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  6. ^ pressrelease[dead link]
  7. ^ "Upshaw". Archived from the original on February 12, 2012. Retrieved March 30, 2015.

External links[edit]