Mezzo throws up in Verdi Requiem

From Texas Classical Review:

Soon after (Sasha) Cooke and soprano Angela Meade began their “Recordare” duet, Cooke seemed to cough, and she left a hand on her chest. A few moments later, she stepped hurriedly toward the wings, vomiting before getting there. I include that detail only to illustrate how notable it was when she returned to the stage moments later— conductor Patrick Summers and company had continued undaunted — and finished the duet.

Cooke left again, amid the audience’s applause, to compose herself during the next sections, which didn’t involve her. Then she returned to intone the lamenting melody that opens the “Lacrimosa.” She treaded lightly, but the performance was able to go on — though she later had to make another brief exit. What a heartening example of artistic grace under pressure.

More here.

image: Library of Congress, 1916

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    • I have never yet managed to enjoy a performance of Verdi’s Requiem, despite having performed it myself and heard numerous performances with a first-rate cast. I do feel that this must be a great failing on my part, as it is frequently claimed to be Verdi’s greatest work and even, some say, his finest opera. To admit to not liking Verdi’s Requiem seems akin to admitting to not having appreciated Hamlet, or having failed to comprehend the brilliance of Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, or being left unmoved by La Sainte-Chapelle.

      • But one can appreciate and acknowledge the greatness of a work of art and in the same time, wholeheartedly dislike it. There are people with a sophisticated aesthetic sense who nonetheless HATE the Mona Lisa, and not because of all the Asians in front of it, but because of the sentiment, or the ‘ugliness’ of the lady concerned. We have only to think of the reception of Wagner’s music to realize that art / music is more than a work of art. It is like a person that one reacts to from the guts.

        The Verdi Requiem is an outrageously direct outpouring of emotional Schwung, and sharply lit like the Italian sun. For northerners, it entirely lacks the spiritual ‘otherness’ we associate with religious music, which is found so strongly in Bach, etc. It is like the Italitan church interiors, filled to the brim with baroque enthusiasm, sporting the Crucified with contrareformational fervor.

        • That does seem to be a good way of looking at it. It’s not that I write off Verdi’s Requiem as a poor piece of music; I just have never managed to enjoy it. I’ll even admit that it does have the occasional moment that I’ve found myself enjoying, but the work as a whole has just never appealed to me.

          I have to say, I have always loved religious art and architecture from Italy, and, of course, the music, for example Palestrina, though Palestrina, I suppose, could be seen as possessing that same quality of “otherness” that we find in composers such as Byrd and Tallis, or Messiaen, or Veljo Tormis and Arvo Pärt. I suppose another reason why I perhaps have never taken to Verdi’s Requiem is that the scale is just impossibly huge to be imagined as a liturgical work (the same goes for Berlioz, of course). Fauré and Duruflé, for example, are written on a more intimate scale, and one can imagine their being used liturgically. Mozart’s Requiem, of course, has been used liturgically, though sadly I have never heard it myself. I have even known the Agnus Dei from Britten’s War Requiem to be used very effectively as part of an Anglican Holy Communion service (as the Agnus Dei: I know that it is also used as an anthem, either at Matins or Evensong, or even as an anthem as part of a Catholic Mass, but I believe that would have to be supplementing the Agnus Dei from the Mass, because of Church rules protecting the original form of the text of the Mass).

          • Good comments.

            I’ve never enjoyed the Verdi “Requiem”, but then I’m not enamored with huge orchestral forces and large choral works no matter who the composer. I always think less is more.

  • Norman, thanks for including the review. The pompous and irrelevant discussion here was starting to make me want to throw up, too.

  • And amidst all the grand-standing pomposity, nobody cared to mention that Sasha Cooke is one of the finest mezzo sopranos of her generation. Not only in possession of a glorious warm voice, but an artist of the highest calibre and consummate professional to boot. Whatever was wrong with her, I hope it was nothing serious and wish her well.

    • Of course you are right. It is impressive how performers deal with the normal human occurrances when on stage, and how remarkable it is that it happens so seldom that a singer has a slight burb, or has to sneeze, or worse, or that a pianist has hickups or an itch on his/her back, or that a dress gets dangerously loose at the shoulder during the Scherzo etc. etc. (I’m serious here.) The nerve to be on the spot at the right time entirely prepared, and with the intention to be inspired, before an audience who paid dear money and are checking whether the performance will be as crackfree as their CD’s at home, is in itself an olympic feat. With all the crunching and grinding in SD’s comments, this should never be forgotten.

  • Not a great experience for the audience to have such a distraction and put them on edge. She should have withdrawn if she wasn’t that well on the day. It does nothing for your vocal cords (or folds for the Americans) to start throwing up in any way.

  • Not a great experience for the audience to have such a distraction and to have put them on edge. She should have withdrawn if she wasn’t that well on the day. If it was all so sudden, then an interval should have been called – often in my experience of singing it, there is often an interval. It does nothing physically for your vocal cords and all that acid (or folds for the Americans) to start throwing up in any way in a performance or beforehand. Not a good decision to be there.

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