13 Feb 2023

Alice Coote’s role debut as Madame de Croissy in Poulenc’s ‘Dialogues des Carmelites’ at the Metropolitan Opera New York had the critics reaching for superlatives to praise her vocal and theatrical power:

Gabrielle Ferrari writes in The Observer, “Mezzo-soprano Alice Coote, as Mother Superior Madame de Croissy, thrummed with a dark intensity from the moment she came on stage. Her face and body contorted, wracked with discomfort that rose to agony, this was an utterly vanity-free acting showcase for Coote, matched by an intense and riveting vocal performance that was unafraid to dig into the nastier side of de Croissy. I found her intensely moving in her anger and pain.

Cameron Kelsall writes in Bachtrack, “Alice Coote made a ferocious first impression as Madame de Croissy, the old prioress whose agonizing death presages the horrors visited upon the convent. Haughty and dismissive in her initial audience with Blanche, Coote’s Mother Superior touchingly softened at the recognition of the young girl’s misguided but sincere convictions. Although still vocally refulgent, she brought a chilling vulnerability to her character’s painful demise, underscoring the terror that accompanies a loss of faith in your darkest hour.

“There are larger, more prominent roles than that of the old nun, Madame de Croissy, the dying Mother Superior of the order, but none has her impact in a brilliantly written death scene that is simply harrowing. Mezzo Alice Coote pulled out all the stops in a dramatic performance that will long stay with me–certainly the best she has ever been in my experience at the Met. It is the opera’s sole show-stopping set piece (except for the ending) and, following a list of grand women who have sung the role, Coote certainly did (more than) justice to it,”  writes Broadway World’s Richard Sasanow

Oussama Zahr writes in The New York Times that, “The Old Prioress, who precedes Lidoine as the order’s Mother Superior, comes to a grisly end early in the opera, with a bang-up death scene that some singers approach with Meryl Streep-like meticulousness. Alice Coote gave an intense performance, more in-the-moment than grandly stylized, her nervy mezzo taking on the growl of a woman whose ox-like strength only prolonged her agony.”

David Zalazar wrties in Opera Wire that, “Alice Coote’s Madame de Croissy stood out as a dominant figure, her struggle setting the stage for the tragedy to come. In her initial scene with Blanche (Ailyn Pérez), Coote’s singing was cool and angular. The color of her voice matched the jagged iron gate that separated her from Blanche during that initial encounter. Juxtapose that with their reunion a few scenes later as the Prioress lies on her deathbed. When Mother Marie first mentions Blanche and that she has decided to take the name the Prioress suggested, Coote’s voice took on a more gentle complexion, and that fully evolved into a light and delicate line when Blanche herself arrived moments later. “Relevez-vous” featured the most glorious singing from Coote the entire evening with tenderness in every note. Even the fortes throughout this passage lacked the harder edge that was more present in the sections bookending this passage. When Javelinot entered to warn the Prioress of her impending doom, Coote’s voice lost all of its brightness, the mezzo’s sound harsh, her body flailing all over the bed as she fought to survive. It was a gripping experience and one of the most intense I have witnessed on the Met stage.

Rick Perdian, for New York Classical Review notes, “Coote is age-appropriate for Madame de Croissy according to the libretto; Constance irreverently declares that at 59, is it not time for her to die? Coote, however, is far younger than most singers who are cast in the role, and her relative youthfulness brought a fascinating dynamic to it. This was a vital woman in the prime of life, rather than a woman whose life force is all but spent. That difference made Madame de Croissy’s death scene all the more harrowing.”

Equally famed on the great operatic stages as in concert and recital, Alice Coote has been named the “superlative British Mezzo” (San Francisco Chronicle). Her performances have been described as “breath-taking in [their] sheer conviction and subtlety of perception” (The Times) and her voice as “beautiful, to be sure, but, more importantly, it thrills you to the marrow.” (The Daily Telegraph). Recent highlights include the role of Orfeo in concert performances of Orfeo ed Euridice at Opera North, Verdi’s Requiem with the Hallé Orchestra and Sir Mark Elder; and her first performances of Ravel’s Shéhérazade with the Sinfonia of London and John Wilson at the Barbican.

This week, on 15 and 16 February she sings Elgar’s Sea Pictures with Philharmonia and Sir John Eliot Gardiner, and March sees her in signature roles in Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Sir Andrew Davis, and Das Lied von der Erde with the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia

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Photo: Marty Sohl/The Metropolitan Opera