V2401. LORRAINE HUNT LIEBERSON, w.Nicolas McGegan Cond. Philharmonia Baroque Orch.: Handel Arias. (Germany) Harmonia Mundi 907149, recorded 1989-91. Final Copy. - 093046714925
“Lieberson brings nobility to the full range of emotions….The voice itself was a noble instrument: warm, full-bodied and seamless in its passage over the vocal registers….She truly was one of the great singers of our time….”
– John Steane, GRAMOPHONE, July, 2009
“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