“SUMMER NIGHTS” IN AUTUMN: Mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt is best known for excelling in Baroque and early classical repertory, but she will be venturing into high Romanticism when she sings Berlioz’s “Les Nuits d’ete” (Summer Nights) with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra led by Nicholas McGegan on Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the Bing Theater at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

“It’s a favorite piece of mine,” Hunt said recently. “I did it in Paris a year-and-a-half ago with Roger Norrington and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. It was a wonderful experience.”

Although Hunt sang the title role of Handel’s “Xerxes” last year for Music Center Opera and before that, Donna Elvira in Peter Sellars’ production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” the San Francisco native stressed that “I didn’t come from early music. I was a violist before I became a singer, and I’ve always sung everything. The different styles of music just guide me how to sing. It’s not, ‘Now I put on a Handel voice. Now I use the Berlioz voice.’ It’s all just music to me.”

Hunt began working with McGegan and the orchestra in 1989 when she sang Handel’s “Susanna.” She’s been singing with them regularly ever since. “It’s gotten to be a pattern, every fall.”


The Berlioz piece is a setting of six poems by Theodore Gautier, originally written for voice and piano. They do not make up a strict song cycle, although they all deal with various aspects of love.

“They’re really separate songs that are put together,” Hunt said. “They don’t necessarily tell a story that ends in a certain way.

“The second, ‘Le Spectre de la Rose,’ is my favorite. It’s probably one of the greatest settings of poetry and music. I find it overwhelming. When I read through the score, my eyes always well up with tears when I get to the last phrase. It really can’t be beat.”