Mitsuko Shirai, mezzo-soprano

Mezzo-soprano Mitsuko Shirai is regarded as one of the world's great interpreters of German art song. Born and raised in Japan, she studied in Stuttgart, where she came into contact with fellow student and pianist Hartmut Höll. Shirai and Höll teamed up as a duo both as artists and, shortly thereafter, in marriage. Since 1994, they have collaborated as the chief instructors in a "lied centre" for voice and piano duos at the Musikhochschule in Karlsruhe, and have conducted similar workshops in Finland, Weimar, Salzburg, at Tanglewood, and in Cincinnati, among other places. Shirai has sung with Höll in concert venues around the world, but they are especially well known in Germany and Japan, where Shirai was awarded the Great Idemitsu Music Award in 1996. Shirai is one of the most frequently recorded lieder singers of modern times; and though she has recorded for Philips, Camerata, and others, the vast majority of her recordings have appeared on the Capriccio label. She has covered a wide range of lieder running from Louis Spohr to Anton Webern, but she is not just limited to recital singing. As a contralto, Shirai has also found acclaim for her performances of Gustav Mahler's orchestral songs. Shirai has also appeared in operas, most frequently in Mozart, but also in such rarities as Richard Wagner's Das Liebesverbot.