With today’s selection I’d like to pay homage to two of my favorite things: a favorite composer and a favorite singer who combine in the most wonderful way on this track. There’s no singer I admire more than Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. She was everything I aspire to be as a singer and performer, and I truly regret that I was never able to see and hear her live before she left this earth way too soon. Her recordings of Bach cantatas and Handel arias are some of my favorite recordings of all time. I came across her Handel album for the first time in graduate school, and the track that absolutely took my breath away was “As With Rosy Steps The Morn,” from Theodora. A sublime Handel melody is more effecting to me than just about any other kind of musical moment, and this one is high on the list of his pieces that just hit me right in the gut. Combine Handel’s music with Lieberson’s voice, and time seems to stand still; it’s a kind of magic that brings you to tears for its beauty.
In this video you can see her perform the aria, as the character of Irene, in the 1996 Peter Sellars production at Glyneborne (the aria proper starts at 0:50). The earthiness and freedom and honesty of her singing is enough to stop you in your tracks, but seeing how she brings that to her performance physically and emotionally shows what a truly next-level artist she was. What a treasure. I could listen to this all day.