Upshaw and Inspiration

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du_white_jacket_dario_acosta.jpgDawn Upshaw is a great singer. Wow, there’s a bold statement, huh? Everyone who knows her knows she’s a great soprano. Only I didn’t say 'soprano,' I said 'singer.' One of Upshaw’s strengths is how malleable her voice is, and how versatile the persona that inhabits that voice can be. No wonder she’s become an inspiration, a muse, to some of today’s finest composers, starting with Osvaldo Golijov and John Adams. On Golijov’s 'Ayre,' for example, she sounds like at least three different people. There are many who would say that the greatest singers are those, like Maria Callas or Luciano Pavarotti, who inhabit the great musical roles with fire and passion; I wonder whether the greatest singers are those who actually cause some of those roles to be written in the first place?

Tell us: Do singers and musicians have a responsibility to perform, and even inspire, music from living composers?