Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Mezzo-Soprano)
Born: 1st March 1954, San Francisco, California
Died: 3rd July 2006, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (1954-2006) was an American mezzo who was particularly beloved for her performances of Bach, Handel and Mahler. Born in San Francisco, she began her career as a viola-player and only began singing professionally in her thirties, initially as a soprano; she made her operatic debut as Sesto in Handel’s Giulio Cesare in a production by Peter Sellars, with whom she went on to work regularly for the rest of her life. Her repertoire included Mélisande, Carmen, Mozart’s Sesto and Charpentier’s Medée, but she is best remembered for her astonishing performance of Irene in Sellars’s ground-breaking staging of Handel’s Theodora at Glyndebourne in 1996 (‘every aria is right up there with finest Handel singing I have ever heard in the theatre’ – The Independent). Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, Hunt Lieberson gave visceral performances of Bach’s Ich habe genug (again directed by Sellars) towards the end of her life, sung from a hospital bed and with tubes protruding from her arms.
She was married to the composer Peter Lieberson, who composed his Neruda Songs for her – the cycle received its premiere a year before Hunt Lieberson’s death, and was recorded on Nonesuch.