V1843. LORRAINE HUNT LIEBERSON, w.Craig Smith Cond. Emmanuel Music Orch.: Cantatas Nos. 82 (Ich habe genug) & 199 (Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut)(Bach). Nonesuch 79692, recorded 2002, Emmanuel Church, Boston. Final Sealed Copy! - 075597969221
“Acclaimed American mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson makes her Nonesuch Records solo debut with Bach Cantatas BWV 82 and 199—featuring two pieces that she recently performed (staged by Peter Sellars) to tremendous critical and audience acclaim in Boston, New York, Paris, London, and Lucerne. Lieberson is joined on the recording, as in the performances, by Boston’s Orchestra of Emmanuel Music and its conductor, Craig Smith. ‘On the bare, dim stage of the John Jay College Theater (for the Lincoln Center engagement of Sellars’ production), mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson did more than sing Bach’s Cantatas 199 and 82—she inhabited them’, said Newsday. Co-commissioned by Lincoln Center, the Barbican Centre, Cité de la Musique, and International Festival of Music Lucerne, Sellars’ stagings of the cantatas featured Lieberson as the sole character in two intensely personal dramas. For Cantata 82, Ich habe genug (It Is Enough)—written for the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary—Lieberson appeared on stage in a hospital gown with medical tubes emerging from her exhausted body to sing Simeon’s biblical words from Luke II as a monologue about readiness to die. Cantata 199, Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut (My Heart Swims in Blood) - written for the eleventh Sunday after Trinity—takes its text from a poetry collection titled Gottgefälliges Kirchen-Opffer (Church Offering Pleasing to God) by Georg Christian Lehms. In staging the piece, Sellars drew on traditional Chinese theater, using Lieberson’s costume - a flowing blue dress with a long red sash—as an important narrative tool. The singer used the blood-colored fabric variously to make elaborate hand gestures, mime strangulation, wrap herself, and hide her face as she faced what Sellars describes as self-hatred and allowed it to dissolve into ‘love, release, and freedom’.”
- Z. D. Akron
“The mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who won near universal praise from critics and audiences for her courageous, insightful and deeply affecting artistry, had a maverick career. She brought uncompromising integrity to her choice of roles and repertory, was a champion of Baroque operas and of living composers, and preferred to work in close-knit conditions with directors and ensembles who shared her artistic aims, especially at festivals like Glyndebourne in England and Aix-en-Provence in France….few artists have brought such emotional vulnerability to their work.
That she began her professional life as a freelance violist and did not focus fully on singing until she was 26 may account for the musical depth and intelligence of her vocal artistry. One of her closest colleagues, Craig Smith, the Boston-based conductor and choir director, said as much in a 2004 profile of Ms. Hunt Lieberson by Charles Michener in the NEW YORKER. 'There's something viola-like about the rich graininess of her singing, about her ability to sound a tone from nothing’, he was quoted as saying.
Though her work seldom drew less than raves from critics, her singing eluded description. Despite the gleaming richness of her sound, her voice somehow conveyed poignant intimacy. Although she paid scrupulous attention to rhythm, phrasing and text, she came across as utterly spontaneous. Her person disappeared into her performances. And yet in a Handel aria, a Britten cantata or a song by her husband, she could be so revealing you sometimes wanted to avert your eyes for fear of intruding.
Her second appearance in a Met production came in 2003 when she sang the role of Dido in the new staging of Berlioz's epic LES TROYENS. With this luminous, stylistically informed and emotionally true portrayal she showed that she could galvanize the Met's stage in a major role.
She studied voice and viola at San Jose State University and, upon graduation, became a freelance player in the Bay Area noted for her expertise in contemporary music. When a French horn player she was dating got a job with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, she moved with him to Boston, soon becoming a valued freelance musician. She was particularly drawn to the music program at Emmanuel Church in the Back Bay section of Boston, where Mr. Smith conducted the orchestra and choir. For the next decade her career thrived as she collaborated with the early-music conductor Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra on a series of Harmonia Mundi recordings of Handel operas and oratorios.
She met Mr. Lieberson in 1997 when he selected her to sing in the premiere of his opera ASHOKA'S DREAM at the Santa Fe Opera. The story tells of an Indian emperor in the third century B.C. who renounces violence after converting to Buddhism and inspires trust and generosity among his people. She and Mr. Lieberson, a practicing Buddhist since his graduate-student days at Columbia, were immediately drawn to each other. Their closeness was apparent to anyone who observed them onstage at Symphony Hall in Boston in November during the ovations for ‘Neruda Songs’, Mr. Lieberson's setting of five Spanish sonnets by Pablo Neruda, each a reflection of a different aspect of love. The performance, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Levine, was repeated a few days later at Carnegie Hall. Every phrase of this emotionally unguarded, intricate and haunting work seemed fashioned by the composer for his wife's distinctive voice. It would be her last New York performance.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 5 July, 2006