Last November, the soprano discovered that she had breast cancer, and withdrew from her engagements through the end of 2006 in order to pursue aggressive treatment. Those dates, unfortunately, included the world premiere of Kaija Saariaho's La Passion de Simone in Vienna and high-profile performances of John Adams's El Niê±o with the Boston Symphony.
Happily, she seems to have come through the regimen well. She returned to the concert stage last Thursday (February 8) in Portland, Oregon in the first stop on a recital tour, singing a program ranging from Lieder by Schumann and Wolf to songs by Stephen Foster to contemporary American music by William Bolcom and Osvaldo Golijov.
David Stabler reported for The Oregonian that Upshaw's performance "reinforced all the reasons we love this down-to-earth diva: her moonbeam voice, her enchanting acting and her generous ease of purpose. But we had another reason [to love her], too: her vulnerability ... no one at the concert could fail to be moved by the sight of this acclaimed soprano standing before us with a shaved scalp."
Upshaw suffered the same effects of chemotherapy that most cancer patients do — and she wasn't afraid to let her audience see the result.
"I didn't know what might happen tonight," Stabler quoted her as saying to the Portland audience. "You gave me a great gift."
Dawn Upshaw gives three more recitals over the next two weeks: tonight in Santa Barbara, California, February 17 in Eugene, Oregon, and February 25 in Boston. She sings Benjamin Britten's Les Illuminations with conductor David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony March 16-18 at the orchestra's home, Powell Symphony Hall, and on March 31 at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Two weeks later, she and Golijov return to Carnegie for workshops with young artists, culminating in performances on April 14 and 15.