Born in Roswell, NM, in 1960, mezzo-soprano Susan Graham began her professional operatic and concert career shortly after completing a master's degree in music at the Manhattan School of Music. A participant in the San Francisco Opera's Merola young artists' program and a winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions, she quickly gained a foothold in the major performing venues in the United States, including the Santa Fe Opera (Dorabella in Così fan tutte), St. Louis Opera (Erika in Samuel Barber's Vanessa), Chicago Lyric Opera (Annius in Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito), and Seattle Opera (Charlotte in Massenet's Werther and Stephano in Gounod's Roméo et Juliet). In 1989 she made her Carnegie Hall debut in Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn, and sang the title role in the first American and British stagings of Massenet's Chérubin. Her Metropolitan Opera debut was in the 1991-1992 season, during which she sang Second Lady in The Magic Flute, Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro and Tebaldo in Verdi's Don Carlos.
During the 1990s, Graham established herself as an artist of international caliber, and added the opera houses of San Francisco, Lyon, Salzburg, Covent Garden, and Vienna to her performing schedule. During this period she also issued a number of recordings, including a highly regarded performance of Berlioz' Nuits d'été, and a collaborative effort with sopranos Renée Fleming and Barbara Bonney entitled Strauss Heriones. A 1998 release, entitled La Belle Époque: Songs of Reynaldo Hahn was a successful follow-up to her earlier Berlioz effort, and confirmed her achievements as an interpreter of French music. She has made numerous recordings of operas and songs, many of them focusing on the French repertoire.
In the year 2000, Graham sang the starring role of Sister Helen Prejean in Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking, a work commissioned by and first performed at the San Francisco Opera. The production was a critical and popular success, and — particularly because of its association with Sister Prejean's well-known book and the equally popular movie rendering — brought Graham a measure of media exposure unusual for an operatic singer. She also sang in the world premieres of John Harbison's The Great Gatsby and Tobias Picker's An American Tragedy at the Metropolitan Opera. In 2007 she starred in a widely-acclaimed new production of Gluck 's Iphigénie en Tauride at the Met.