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SFCM’s Susanne Mentzer Performs Mozart in Japan

Voice faculty and mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer performed at the Ozawa Saito Kinen Festival in Japan in late August.

August 31, 2022 by Mark Taylor

By Mark Taylor

It’s considered one of the greatest operas ever written, but for Susanne Mentzer, Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro also occupies a special place in her heart, and her career. 

The voice professor and mezzo-soprano just performed in the famed opera in Matsumoto, Japan as part of the Ozawa Saito Kinen Festival in late August. The opportunity came about after she was in the same production last summer with Sante Fe Opera, which then took the opera to Japan. “I jumped at the chance to reunite with my wonderful colleagues. Most of the cast is the same save for a few characters,” Mentzer continued. “Some of the character roles were performed with excellent Japanese singers from Tokyo.”

Mentzer performed as Marcellina in the opera, a change from a more familiar role. “I had performed and was very well-known for my portrayal of Cherubino, the trouser role. I first sang that role in 1982. It was my lucky role and I debuted at many companies internationally,” Mentzer continued. “I had such amazing memories of this opera and was hesitant to sing a different role, [but] as soon as I tried Marcellina I felt it was so much fun that I kept it in my rep.” 

Susanne Mentzer as Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro.

Mentzer's stellar singing career covers four decades with touch points at nearly every major opera company, orchestra, and recital organization. She joined SFCM faculty in 2016 after 12 years of teaching at other music institutions.

This is Mentzer’s fourth time performing in Japan, but first in more than a decade. “When I was here before it was pre-internet and cell phones. I do not know how I survived without my cell phone photo text translator app!” 

In addition to being overseas, the performances were especially important for Mentzer, whose career has provided many Mozart-related opportunities. “I call my home ‘the house that Mozart built’ because I have performed just about every role for lyric mezzo in the rep save for a few. I really like sharing my Mozart knowledge,” Mentzer said. Other cast members included Ailyn Pérez, Samuel Dale Johnson, Ying Fang, Angela Brower and Philippe Sly. 

Calling this one of her last chances to perform Mozart, Mentzer hopes students take every chance they get, and cherish every achievement. “One is never too old to take on challenges. I am 65 and have done just about everything I have wished as a singer, but still take joy in performing. My teacher gifted me a good heathy technique and if you really love singing you need that,” she said. 

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