Worldwide Acclaim

DOWN A MODERNIST MEMORY LANE. Milton Babbitt’s “Solo Requiem” (1976-77)….draws on texts that meditate on mortality. The vocal line, sung with power and clarity by Lucy Shelton, leaps around as Mr. Babbitt’s vocal lines tend to do, yet affectingly captures the sometimes melancholy, sometimes philosophical spirit of the poetry.
Continuum, The New York Times (Kozinn) 

SOPRANO CASTS A GREAT SPELL. Lucy Shelton has lived with “Pierrot Lunaire” for more than 25 years, and the relationship has been rewarding. The renowned soprano has delved so deeply into Arnold Schoenberg’s 1912 masterpiece that she grasps every subtlety in the thorny score. In her extraordinary performance with the CIM New Music Ensemble Wednesday night at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Shelton created the persona of a strange sorceress telling scary stories……..The spellbinding performance won cheers from audience members.
CIM New Music Ensemble, Plain Dealer (Salisbury) 

“CONCERT TAKES NEW RISKS” It was a joy at the Great Lakes festival on Tuesday to encounter two new American works of such vastly different pedigree and style as Higdon’s “Zaka” (2004) and Carter’s “Tempo e Tempi” (1998), a song cycle on Italian texts for soprano, oboe, clarinet, violin and cello. There is not one grid in “tempo e Tempi”; there are many. In the first song, bass clarinet, English horn, violin and voice enter one at a time, each marching to its own pulse. It can be disorienting, like a vocalist accompanied by many independent obbligatos: Carter’s music has always been about how we live in constantly moving time. Still, the vocal lines reveal Carter’s latent lyricism, with passages of chiseled melody that soprano Lucy Shelton sang with alluring creaminess and nuance.
Great Lakes Festival, Detroit Free Press 

Two of Mr. Perle’s early vocal works, settings of Rilke’s “Du meine heilige Einsamkeit” and “Der Bach hat leise Melodien” (1941), were set beside a group of Schoenberg’s turn-of-the-century songs. Lucy Shelton sang them all with a warmth that bridged the nearly half a century between them. And on the second half of the program, Ms. Shelton and the Da Capo musicians gave a hair-raising, theatrical account of Schoenberg’s “Pierrot Lunaire.”
Da Capo Chamber Players at Merkin, The New York Times 

Saturday’s opening night featured a staged production of Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire (1912) conceived by the Chicago puppet theater of Blair Thomas with the kinetic contemporary music ensemble Eighth Blackbird and soprano Lucy Shelton. It was a weird and wonderful evening. Pierrot remains a beguiling and baffling masterpiece of expressionism… In Thomas’ vision, Shelton is the poet and Pierrot (an amazingly lifelike puppet operated by three puppeteers) emerges as her tormented muse. The pair dance, banter, flirt and fight. The musicians, in white makeup and bizarre costumes and hats, are Kabuki-like actors too. The set is bleak: a surreal landscape of moonstruck drunkenness. The production was riveting. Playing from memory, Eighth Blackbird’s expressive precision was striking and Shelton’s charismatic acting and vocalizing took you deep inside the neurotic mind of an artist.
Great Lakes Festival, Detroit Free Press 

“Shelton then sang a recent song by Babbitt, his 2002 setting of Derek Walcott’s “Now Evening After Evening”, a haunting and elegiac piece tailor made to Shelton’s voice. She deftly negotiated its wide-ranging leaps and detailed dynamic structure.”
Works and Process review in Splendid Liveline 

” Fred Cohen’s That Which Binds Us was a setting of three poems by Jane Hirshfield, here sung by the resplendent Lucy Shelton, who can serve, all by herself, as eloquent refutation of the old saw, beloved of timid music teachers, that singing contemporary music wrecks the voice. Shelton sounded just fine here, as warm and majestic as ever.”
21st Century Consort, Washington Post – Tim Page 

“I got more at St. John’s from Richard Bernas’s marvelous reading with Music Projects/London of Franco Donatoni’s Tema (1981) and Schoenberg’s tiny, mystical Herzgewächse (1911), in which soprano Lucy Shelton admirably sang the century’s most celebrated top F.”
Paul Driver, London Guardian 

The concert ended with a landmark Berio work, “Circles” (1960). In a gripping realization of Mr. Berio’s intentions, the soprano Lucy Shelton turned the prolonged, distorted syllables of an e.e.cummings poem into unearthly intonations, deftly accommodating her voice to the panoramic sounds of the harpist June Han and the percussionists Pablo Rieppi and Tom Kolor.
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times

“Soprano Lucy Shelton in the leading role of Juana I sings a tour de force performance”
The New York Times 

“Lucy Shelton sang beautifully” The New Yorker 

“Lucy Shelton brought pathos and command to the principal Juana.” Boston Globe 

“The nine decades since its birth have not diminished the work’s eerie charge, particularly when delivered with the power that soprano Lucy Shelton injected into her part. Shelton, an active figure in the contemporary music scene, has this music in her bones. She made the fiendish difficulties of the Sprechstimme writing seem like natural vocal speech. Her keen dramatic sense, wide color palette and animated facial expressions yielded a compelling performance that was in every aspect a tour de force.
Albuquerque Sunday Journal (SCHOENBERG Pierrot Lunaire)

“Shelton and ProMusica’s collaboration in the Britten is a triumph for all. The lofty tessitura demanded throughout would challenge most sopranos but seemed as nothing for this singer. The fantastic images of the text are vividly conjured up in the music, and Shelton brought them to colorful life.”
The Columbus Dispatch 

“The estimable Lucy Shelton knows her way around modern music, and this arrangement allows for all her skills.”
Boston Herald 

“Soprano Lucy Shelton brought beauty and grace to Baley’s songs.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer 

“In a gripping realization of Mr. Berio’s intentions, the soprano Lucy Shelton turned the prolonged, distorted syllables of an e.e.cummings poem into unearthly intonations, deftly accommodating her voice to the panoramic sounds of the harpist and the percussionists.”
The New York Times 

“Schoenberg wanted the soloist (here, the sensational Lucy Shelton) to speak the decadent, diabolical text on specified pitches -–a technique called Sprechstimme, literally “speaking voice” – with only an occasional, sudden burst of song. Shelton got that mix exactly right, her delivery of the German text was spellbinding, and her expression was pointed and immediate throughout. Even her dress, which looked as if it came from the Gustav Klimt collection, was perfect.”
Boston Sunday Herald 

Many of these cheers with reason went to Lucy Shelton, a singer deeply experienced in putting across “impossible” modern music. Shelton also has a voice. To which it should be added that she knows languages, can act, and is always aware of the larger musical context. In other words, she doesn’t just take the money and run.”
The Boston Globe 

“Shelton sang eloquently”
The New York Times 

“Soprano Lucy Shelton sang with tonal glow, secure musicianship, and feeling.”
The Boston Globe 

“When the voice belongs to a phenomenal singer like soprano Lucy Shelton the music becomes a gift, message or poem sent from the composer via the performer to the audience.”
The Washington Post

“Lucy Shelton possesses just the right kind of limpid tone for the exquisite Malarme settings of Ravel. The Dallapiccola came as a real oasis, every moment registering intended and worthwhile musical statements,. Lucy Shelton found great variation of approach and timbre. The result wonderfully matched the wide range and interest of these fragmentary classical settings, profoundly beautiful music, richly expressive and exploratory.”
The London Guardian

“Shelton lived up to her reputation. She is, indeed, a complete musician with a magnificent instrument and an intelligent mind toward style. Perhaps most refreshing is Shelton’s careful, thoughtful attention to phrasing, which became even more apparent in the more familiar Mozart “Exsultate”.
The Columbus Dispatch

“a glittering kaleidoscope of sound whose central jewel is the pure, lyric soprano voice of Lucy Shelton….What does keep the senses stimulated, however, is Shelton, who possesses one of the most beautiful soprano voices I’ve ever heard. It’s the kind of pure crystalline instrument that sounds breathtaking even in the high amplification required by Del Tredici.”
Buffalo News

“Lucy Shelton sang her incredibly demanding part tirelessly, with awesome musical security, with great technical skill and beauty of tone.”
The Boston Globe

“One of those rare sopranos with near-perfect pitch and the ability to negotiate jagged intervals, switch to sprechgesang and then soar over the orchestra with golden tone.”
Jeff Bradley, The Denver Post

“If Steber taught us to love the sweet music of the piece, Shelton showed us how wonderfully rich and evocative is its imagery. So supple was her phrasing, so attentive was she to textual nuance, that her performance reached out to the audience in an utterly natural and spontaneous way.”
The Chicago Tribune (BARBER:  Knoxville, Summer of 1915)

“Shelton’s elegant, warm singing made every gesture tell…Shelton’s singing was a marvel of graceful eloquence.”
Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

“Shelton, with grace and an effortless technique”
Classics Today

“Always a revelatory interpreter”
Leighton Kerner, The Village Voice

“Lucky the composers (rather many by now) who have had Lucy Shelton on their side. Her technique (and personality and imagination) can have a listener warming even to music that’s hell-bent on avoiding warmth. Yes, she sings “normal” music, too.” Richard Buell, The Boston Globe

“Shelton dazzles continuously from the heights.”
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times

“The Sequenza for soprano ranges through every kind of vocal noise, including singing, to run the gamut of human emotions: Lucy Shelton’s uninhibited realization of the possibilities, as a kind of madwoman who has reorganized ordinary things into her own patterns, was a brilliant vocal and imaginative achievement.”
Richard Dyer, The Boston Globe

“The Farewell Songs, a virtuoso performance by Lucy Shelton, gasps, spits, hisses and rants but also indulges in opera-singer rhetoric and a traditional if distorted Viennese waltz.”
Bernard Holland, The New York Times

“Lucy Shelton’s account with Knussen and the Sinfonietta – the British premiere – had hair-trigger intensity: a gripping, lovely interplay of pointillist outbursts…”
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times  (CARTER:  Tempo i Tempi)

“Shelton demonstrated a superior command of colour, pitch, balance and style which, fine as they were, served only to support her superbly expressive artistry – a matter of shading, pace and insight into both the poetry for and the poetry of the voice.”
Stephen Pedersen, The Chronicle

“Abundant reserves of steely accuracy and expressive power”
Antony Bye, The Times (London)

“The soprano here was Lucy Shelton, characteristically strong and generous”
Paul Griffiths, The New York Times

“Shelton, whose new-music gifts are the stuff of legend, got to do the mad scenes of the “Lunatici” cycle, delivering balmy chuckles, humming, cries, whispers, and readings from Sylvia Plath.”
Susan Larson, The Boston Globe  (RANDS:  Canti Lunatici)

“In Ravel’s Trois poemes de Stephane Mallarme Lucy Shelton sang superbly, her voice rich and alluring above the almost ascetic accompaniment.”
Anthony Marks, Musical Times

“Lucy Shelton did the premiere performance and she brought her strong, eloquent voice and musicality to this one as well.”
Bernard Holland, The New York Times

“Shelton is a musical, scrupulous, imaginative and uninhibited singer.”
Richard Dyer, The Boston Globe

“Argument continues about whether the vocal line of the finale – woven through the instruments in Berg’s published score – should be sung. If it is to be sung though, let it be sung by Lucy Shelton. Her performance here was warm and engaging, with a nice sense of drama and in fine balance with the strings.”
Paul Griffiths, The New York Times

“It also brought out the comedienne in Ms. Shelton, who began Mr. Foss’s setting of Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, and was interrupted by a sudden car alarm from the parking lot nearby. She sang “A HORN!” then vocalized loopily between each beep of the car horn. She invited the flutist, pianist and percussionist to join her in this slightly mad cantata. It was a moment that could have been disastrous that was made into something memorable and delightful!”
Fred Volkmer, Southampton Press

“An absolutely wonderful musician with a deep understanding and affinity for contemporary music.”
Michael Manning, The Boston Globe

“Easily the most entertaining of the four scores was Address to the New Tay Bridge by the Dutch composer Robert Zuidam. A setting of hilariously inept doggerel by William McGonagall, Zuidam’s piece plays skillfully with the poet’s less than felicitous handling of meter. His propensity for high-flown apostrophe is also wittily parodied in ecstatic melismas, fearlessly executed by Shelton.”
Barry Millington, The Times (London)

“Lucy Shelton brought the right kind of disembodied tenderness to “addio mamma””
Stephen Johnson, The Independent (London)

“This priceless American soprano has zealously devoted herself both to enriching the contemporary song repertory and to honoring the masters of our century. Carter’s most recent song cycle, Of Challenge and of Love, was commissioned especially for her. It was obviously made for Shelton’s voice, which is clear and forceful in all its registers and has a trumpet-like upper range. That she performed it from memory is a feat of Olympian stature.”
Russell Platt, Star Tribune

“In a virtuosic performance by Lucy Shelton (who recalled Jan De Gaetani in her combination of technical expertise and dramatic immediacy), it took on an almost operatic character…”
Edward Rothstein, The New York Times

“…performed eloquently by soprano Lucy Shelton.”
Joseph McLellan, The Washington Post

“The result is never less than imposing, especially in a performance as effortless as that of Lucy Shelton”
BBC Music Magazine

“vivid vocalism…expressive use of the demands the music is placing on her essentially lyric instrument”
John Story, Fanfare

“Shelton uses much quiet singing and much mezza voce, only using her full resources where the music imperatively demands it, and in, for example, the huge and vehement high phrases of the sixth song, she quite convinces you that her voice is bigger than you’d thought: she hits them absolutely fearlessly. She sustains long curves of melody impressively well, caresses the more tender phrases beautifully and uses parlando in the lower register with intelligence.”
American Record

“A favorite of modernist composers and of critics…everybody’s first choice for Schoenberg or Messiaen.”
Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times

“Shelton showed us arid, earthy colours, her voice curving from a glowing directness to a snaking near scream. One felt her skill – here, one was but testing the water in a musical reservoir of immeasurable depth.”
The Scotsman

“Great skill, always balancing declamatory power against emotional intensity”
Andrew Clements, The Guardian

“Schwantner’s song cycle was written for soprano Lucy Shelton who sang the mind-bogglingly treacherous solo part. Sailing high one minute, swooping down the next, jumping from English to Spanish and back again, sinking into sung-spoken incantations and gliding through lyrical passages, the soprano turned these four songs into a dramatic, chilling experience….her easy command of Schwantner’s virtuosic writing…”
Marc Shulgold, Rocky Mountain News

“In addition to technical accomplishment, Shelton embodies those traits that make interpretrs of 20th century music stand out – a range of emotional, even theatrical expression that never steps out of the bounds of musicality; a palette of colors that is never artificially vivid or self-consciously subdued; the ability to sing as though speaking, and to speak as though singing.
Michael Manning, Boston Globe

“So pure and expressive is Shelton’s voice that she could create magic merely by reciting from the song book.”
Pamela Summers, The Washington Post

“Her voice sparkled through the orchestra like light through the trees”
Eugene Register Guard

“That sense of underlying longing was as poignantly realised by the players as by the excellent soprano soloist, Lucy Shelton, whose warm lyricism made a strong case for the entire cycle.”
Barry Millington, The Times

“Shelton’s Pierrot is dark, cool, and mystical. Shelton’s sprechstimme uses all the facilities of the human larynx to create a fantastic “Schoenbergian bel canto”. Shelton performs equally amazing vocal feats when singing the incredible Herzegewachse.”
James H. North, American Records

“The soprano lines, here sung with extraordinary accuracy and feeling by Lucy Shelton, bounce like a pinball from pitch to pitch, without regard for the sheer technical trials involved. The result is a strangely compelling form of aural poetry.”
Tim Smith, Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

“The result is seductive, ravishing: the solo sopranos wind exquisitely through Boulez’s marvellous orchestral inventions, with an expressive immediacy rarely equalled in his “mature” pieces.”
David Murray, Financial Times

“She gave a recital of remarkable diversity and consistent excellence…In this varied program she proved herself a true singing actress in the best sense of that overworked term.”
Robert Finn, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

“The poems are about love and ceremony, each exploring an aspect of rhetoric, from outcry to recitation, to melting Puccini-like description. Lucy Shelton beautifully incarnated each brief dramatic humour, well supported by members of the London Sinfonietta, conducted by Diego Masson.”
Meredith Oakes, The Independent

“Shelton, one of this country’s most interesting singers, has not relied on opera to make her career, but has ventured forth in nearly every important style and period of song. She is a notable exponent of contemporary music, but her pliant and expressive soprano is equally vivid in Beethoven’s Folk Songs of Many Lands.”
The Seattle Times

“Shelton’s is a voice and music personality that does not call attention to itself but is so utterly secure that the song is expressed directly, a rare transcendence.”
The Buffalo News

“The most expressive, purely beautiful singing came from soprano Lucy Shelton as Euridice.”
The Columbus Dispatch

“A fearless and versatile maverick between the worlds of contemporary music and classical lieder singing, Shelton’s trump card is a flair for conveying intimacy with a lustrous voice that could blow away the back seats in the War Memorial. She achieves it partly through a richly expressive stage presence: a sidelong smile, cocked eyebrow or outstretched palm that underscore her equally unforced vocal acrobatics.”
Rochester Times Union

“Anything Shelton does commands attention. She is that kind of artist. And she rewarded us amply with her poised reading of these introspective songs. One admires many things about Shelton – her skill and musicianship among them – but in this group, her ability to express feeling was paramount.”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Miss Shelton showed herself to be a superior recitalist, a singer who can set the tone of a song from the very first note, develop the mood through a subtle use of vocal color and a keen musical intelligence, and hold an audience captive with each succeeding phrase. She sang with superb musicianship, intense involvement and considerable technical skill, including a perfect chain of descending trills in the final measures of Strauss’ Amor.”
The New York Times

"Shelton is able to connect the dots, both literally on the page and musically between fundamentally different soundworlds. Contemporary vocal fireworks from a specialist in the field. "
Gramophone Magazine

Recordings Reviews

GINASTERA String Quartets (ENSO Quartet) (No. 3 with Lucy Shelton, soprano) on NAXOS

Ginastera’s quartets demand a high level of virtuosity from the performers. He set texts by Jiménez, Lorca, and Alberti, illuminating the soprano’s vocalizing and occasional spoken declamation with a series of ingenious string effects. The imagery and atmosphere of the poems dictate the musical form, so the task for the musicians is to reproduce specific moods, on top of the considerable technical challenges.
On the new disc, Lucy Shelton is a revelation: she brings pure tone and a wide range of vocal color to her interpretation. The U.S.-based Enso Quartet plays with warmth and unanimity, meeting all the technical and interpretive hurdles with apparent ease. Naxos’s sound is excellent, the timing is generous, and a translation of the poetry is provided, making this CD the version of choice, regardless of price.
Fanfare, November 2009, by Phillip Scott

The soloist is the great American soprano, Lucy Shelton, the three works played by the Enso Quartet. Formed in the States in 1999, are played with passionate commitment and tremendous skill, while Naxos’s Canadian recording team offer another faultless product.
David's Review Corner, June 2009 by David Denton

Soprano Lucy Shelton joins the Ensō in Quartet 3 (1973), and gives an incredible performance in a work making as severe demands on the vocalist’s art as it does the instrumental.
Posted by Phil Muse in NAXOS, Mar 06 2010


20th Century Consort with Lucy Shelton on INNOVA

The breadth of this collection provides not just a showcase for her but a richly satisfying programme for the listener as well. Shelton is able to connect the dots, both literally on the page and musically between fundamentally different soundworlds. Contemporary vocal fireworks from a specialist in the field.
Gramophone Magazine (by Ken Smith)

Legend has it that some could see Lucifer himself guiding Niccolo Paganini's fingers over the neck of his violin when he performed. Judging by the evidence offered on this second of three discs from the Consort's Smithsonian season, Lucy Shelton might very well be receiving similar assistance from any number of less rebellious angels. Shelton has honed her supple, pellucid soprano to the point where it glides through even the most demanding passages with preternatural ease, making the two-time Walter W. Naumburg Award winner the perfect partner in the sublime for Washington D.C.'s storied 20th Century Consort. These recordings of far-too-rarely heard works by Joseph Schwantner, Gerald Chenoweth, Richard Wernick, and William Doppman mark the culmination of an ongoing 26-year collaboration between Shelton and the Consort, proving that practice does, in fact, make perfect. Still, a little angelic assistance never hurts.
~from “One Sheet Text” on Innova