Astonishingly, it was only by a chance visit to ArkivMusic.com, and only because they happened to feature it on their home page when I visited, that I discovered that a Lorraine Hunt Lieberson recital new to CD was coming out in about a week. Such is the shifting-sands nature of home pages that there was no trace of it when I went back, and I had to hunt through their user-unfriendly search system to make sure that I hadn’t dreamed it. You’d think there might be a little more publicity at this point, but perhaps the explanation is just that it’s from Wigmore Hall Live, which is a new and high-quality but I assume fairly small label, rather than a major recording company, if any of those are still around. You can find it here, as you no doubt will want to, since this is self-recommending.
It’s a different recital from the one Wigmore released earlier, which itself had been released even earlier by the BBC. The Wigmore release includes Hunt Lieberson’s spoken introduction to the aria from Ashoka’s Dream, and has an attractive picture of her on the booklet cover and more extensive documentation inside, including the astonishing information that she once sang Deep River in the party scene of Die Fledermaus at the Met on New Year’s Eve. I have heard that it’s usual during this scene for celebrity guests to do a number, though I don’t think that happened during the San Francisco Opera performance a couple of years ago. I think I would have remembered it if anyone had sung about anything at all besides how much they all loved champagne.
Normally I would discourage anything that might make Fledermaus even longer than it already is, but obviously I’d make an exception here. Imagine the Met party crowd on New Year’s Eve hearing this woman step out and sing Deep River. That would sure burn a hole in the evening, and I mean that in the best way possible. But there’s the history of opera as an art form right there: on the one hand, frivolity, luxury, and wealth; and on the other, a capsizing moment of burning truth and beauty.