Shirai, Mitsuko, notable Japanese soprano, mezzo-soprano, and teacher; b. Nagano, May 28, 1947. She studied in Japan before settling in Germany, where she completed her vocal studies with Schwarzkopf. She won first prizes in vocal competitions in Vienna, Zwickau, ’s- Hertogenbosch, Athens, and Munich (1973–76). With her husband Hartmut Höll she began to tour widely as a lieder artist in 1973. In addition to appearances throughout Germany and Europe, they also toured North and South America, Japan, Israel, and Africa. In 1987 she made her stage debut as Despina at the Frankfurt am Main Opera. In 1989 she made her N.Y. debut at Carnegie Hall in Ravel’s Shéhérazade. She taught at the Karlsruhe Hochschule für Musik, and also gave master classes. In 1997 she and her husband were the recipients of the ABC International Music Award. Shirai’s extraordinary vocal range allows her enormous scope in the choice of repertoire. In addition to the great masters of the Austro-German lied, she has championed scores by Berlioz, Lili Boulanger, Loeffler, Schoeck, Hindemith, Prokofiev, Malipiero, Cariilo, and many others. Her operatic roles include works by Mozart, Wagner, Hugo Wolf, and Dukas.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire