Sasha Cooke

Mezzo-Soprano

Biography

Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke has been called a “luminous standout” (New York Times) and “equal parts poise, radiance and elegant directness” (Opera News).  Ms. Cooke is sought after by the world’s leading orchestras, opera companies, and chamber music ensembles for her versatile repertoire and commitment to new music.

In 2018-19, Sasha Cooke’s operatic engagements will include role debuts as Eduige in Rodelinda at the Gran Teatre del Liceu and the title role of Orlando with the San Francisco Opera. She returns to the title role in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel which she performs with the Los Angeles Opera under the direction of James Conlon. Orchestral appearances include the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for Handel’s Messiah, Cleveland Orchestra for Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 Resurrection with Franz Welser-Möst that incorporates a domestic tour, National Symphony Orchestra for Ravel’s Shéhérazade under Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla, and Houston Symphony in her first performance of Dvořák’s Stabat Mater led by Andrés Orozco-Estrada. Ms. Cooke celebrates the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth by performing his songs with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, in addition to the Symphony No. 1 Jeremiah with the Nashville Symphony, and Symphony No. 3 Kaddish with the St. Louis Symphony with Leonard Slatkin. She will reprise Passage (a work she created at the Kennedy Center in 2017) with the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra.

In the 2017-18 season, Ms. Cooke sang the title role in the world premiere of Marnie, by Nico Muhly, at English National Opera. She sang Goffredo in a concert version of Handel’s Rinaldo with The English Concert conducted by Harry Bicket, with performances at Carnegie Hall (New York), the Auditorio Nacional de Música (Madrid), and Barbican Centre (London). Other concert engagements included Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 Kaddish with the San Francisco Symphony and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with the London Symphony Orchestra, both conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg conducted by Matthias Pintscher, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 Resurrection with the Reykjavik Arts Festival under the baton of Osmo Vänskä, Mary in Berlioz’s L’enfance du Christ with both the Melbourne Symphony conducted by Sir Andrew Davis and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin conducted by Robin Ticciati, Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1 Jeremiah with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic conducted by Edo de Waart, Duruflé’s Requiem with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, and a performance featuring composers Respighi and Jalbert with Orchestre Métropolitain de Montreal conducted by Cristian Macelaru. Ms. Cooke returned to a role she created, Hannah after, in Laura Kaminsky’s opera As One both at Hawaii Opera Theatre and Chautauqua Opera Company, and offered a concert of Ravel’s Shéhérazade with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra. Finally, she gave solo recitals at the Milton Academy in Massachusetts and Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, in addition to joint recitals with guitarist Jason Vieaux at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts in California and the Cleveland Chamber Music Society.

Read more

Recent News

Reviews

“Sasha Cooke’s mezzo-soprano was exquisitely rounded and ensured that Goffredo’s arias were delivered with a certain sumptuousness and complete sense of ease.”

Rinaldo, The English Concert, March 2018

Sam Smith

Music OMH

“Mezzo-soprano, Sasha Cooke’s voice was luxurious, full-bodied and round, so powerful that at times when the electro-acoustic orchestra was at a fortissimo level, she could still be heard over the group. She sensitively portrayed Laurene, Jobs’ gentle, comforting influence.”

The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, Santa Fe Opera, July 2017

Mary Helen Klare

Albuquerque Journal

“The splendid mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke brought dark colorings and penetrating richness to her solos.”

Anthony Tommasini

The New York Times

“The best thing about this performance [by the San Francisco Symphony at the Royal Festival Hall in London] was Sasha Cooke, the American mezzo whose resonant tone and intelligent projection raised the fourth movement [of Mahler’s Third Symphony] to a different level.”

Andrew Clark

Financial Times

More Reviews

“The splendid mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke brought dark colorings and penetrating richness to her solos. “

Anthony Tommasini. The New York Times

“The best thing about this performance [by the San Francisco Symphony at the Royal Festival Hall in London] was Sasha Cooke, the American mezzo whose resonant tone and intelligent projection raised the fourth movement [of Mahler’s Third Symphony] to a different level.”

Andrew Clark, Financial Times

“In the splendid aria “Parto, parto”… Sasha Cooke’s timbre seems to have taken on an added richness since I last heard her. The singer’s expressive qualities were, as ever, to the fore, and the power and beauty of her interpretation made me long to hear her at The Met again where lesser artists hold forth in roles that would suit Ms. Cooke to perfection. Be that as it may, her singing of the aria tonight, graced by Mr. Shifrin’s polished roulades, was a thoroughly engrossing musico-dramatic experience.”

Philip Gardner. Oberon’s Grove

“Such combinations as the women in “Recordare, Jesu pie” and the three lower voices in “Lux aeterna luceat eis” brimmed with vitality and unanimity of expression. Cooke deserves special mention. In a world in which “mezzo-soprano” is the more marketable category, she is a true contralto…It’s a certain tone quality, a penetrating timbre, that not only lends gravity to the frequent solos Verdi gives to the lower female voice, but also seems essential to make clearer the four solo lines in the “Offertorio” section. Cooke had the essential sound and the skill to shape it to the music’s meaning”

Jay Harvey. Jay Harvey Upstage

“The best news in “Mary Magdalene” was Cooke’s majestic performance. In her company debut, the American mezzo made a brilliant impression, her characterization composed of equal parts poise, radiance and elegant directness. Her honey-colored voice was deployed luxuriantly; Cooke sang with complete conviction, sounding unforced and lustrous throughout a long evening. “

Georgia Rowe. Opera News

“Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke added extra gleam to Friday’s Aspen Chamber Orchestra program under conductor Tomas Netopil. In Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, known as the composer’s most relaxed and approachable, Cooke offered a delightfully animated take on “The Heavenly Life” song finale. “

Harvey Steimann.

“Between Britten and Mendelssohn…were five of the “Mörike-Lieder” of Hugo Wolf, wonderfully sung by the mesmerizing mezzo Sasha Cooke with subtle dramatic flair and an exquisite balance of vocal richness and focus…Cooke seemed carried aloft by them.”

James Quillian. The Oregonian

“In the short fourth movement, the creamily exquisite mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke sings of mortal anguish and heaven’s calling.”

Mark Swed. Los Angeles Times.

“Ms. Cooke brings winsome beauty and a rich, creamy voice to the role.”

Anthony Tommasini. New York Times

“With her soaring and warm voice, crystalline diction and regal yet endearing presence, Sasha Cooke as Mary is the glory of the production”

Janos Gereben. San Francisco Examiner

“If Adamo wanted to create believers in the Magdalene, he could not have done better than write the role for the extraordinary mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, who on Wednesday night made a triumphant company debut in the title role…In a performance of dazzling vocal majesty and theatrical clarity, Cooke charted Mary’s transformation from an unsettled seeker…to the self-contained teacher of a new gospel. Her singing was throaty, eloquent, and shimmeringly rich; the saintly nimbus that Renaissance painters suggested using gold paint attaches naturally to Cooke’s voice.”

Joshua Kosman. San Francisco Chronicle

“Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke’s Mary is a modern feminine ideal, opulently sensuous, insistently sensible, deeply feeling and demandingly honest.”

Mark Swed. Los Angeles Times

“Flanking Tilson Thomas were four soloists, all excellent — though a special “hosanna” must go out to mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, whose singing of “miserere nobis” (“have mercy upon us”) in the “Agnus Dei” was like an expanding column of pure concentrated sound. It was soulfully unnerving, shaking your inners, bringing to mind the likes of Callas and Coltrane. Wow.”

Richard Scheinin. San Jose Mercury News

“Sasha Cooke’s radiant soprano is perfect for Sonia”

Scott Cantrell. The Dallas Morning News

“Sonia is played with a cunning twist by Sasha Cooke…she conveys this simply and effectively in the way she sings the score in her melodious mezzo-soprano voice. “

Mark- Brian Sonna. Pegasus News

“Ms. Cooke’s performances in this program of love songs inspired by poetry were the highlight of the evening […her] distinctive smoky timbre blended beautifully with the mellow tones of the viola; her phrasing and control were notable […] She also wielded her expressive voice to fine effect in the alto solo in Schumann’s “Spanische Liebeslieder” for four voices and piano, four hands […] The six musicians joined forces for the concluding work, Brahms’s “Liebeslieder Waltzer” for four voices and piano, four hands, with Ms. Cooke again the luminous standout in her solo”

Vivienne Schweitzer. New York Times

“In Der Einsame im Herbst her ravishing expression of the text’s world-weary protagonist sailed over the orchestra. And in the finale, Der Abschied — “Farewell” — her assured singing revealed a stunning expressive range, especially in her sinewy duets with the orchestra’s principal flutist and in her floating repetitions of the word ewig — “forever”

Jennifer Hambrick. The Columbus Dispatch

“Cooke’s attractive, erotic stage presence struck plenty of sparks in “Doctor Atomic”, but without question she also delivers the vocal goods. She possesses a firm, fruity mezzo, straight-toned in quality, which allows the listener to luxuriate in her unerring sense of pitch. And she has a strong yet subtle interpretive ability, one that draws the listener in. She doesn’t play to the balconies; she makes “you” come to “her”, as did the much-lamented Lorraine Hunt Lieberson[…]Cooke’s performance is an exercise in simplicity”

Eric Myers. Opera News

“Sasha Cooke brings a rich, beautifully supported soprano to Magnolia, persuasively charting her growth from starry-eyed innocent to life-toughened survivor, with the right soignée polish in her late-in-the-action Ziegfeld turn “Nobody Else But Me”

Everett Evans. Houston Chronicle

“Sasha Cooke’s Magnolia “Nolie” Hawks is sweet and loveable from beginning to end. Her arc from naïve and protected teenager to self-realized Broadway starlet is entirely believable and a joy to watch. Sasha Cooke’s soprano instrument is breathtakingly beautiful, lending a decidedly and much appreciated operatic tonality to her performance. She shines magnificently on “You Are Love” and “Nobody Else But Me.”

David Clarke. Broadway World

“With its setting of the “Lamentations of Jeremiah,” the music speaks to a crisis of faith; the portentous weight of the strings underscored the angst. Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke’s powerfully intense singing of the vocal finale deepened the mournful impression “

Mark Stryker. Detroit Free Press

“It turns out, manifestly Sasha Cooke can do just about everything: simple folksongs, easily and authoritatively rendered musical theater numbers by Gershwin and Weill, as well as comic parody songs interspersed with opera scenes. She has no peer at deftly capturing the faraway sultry mood of “Summertime.” She has remarkable, charismatic stage presence about her. With ease and showmanship, she wraps the audience around her little finger. Vocally faultless, she puts her heart and soul in it. Her appearance brought a heretofore neglected aspect to the Berlin Music Festival: the entertainingness of American music.”

Andreas Goebel. Kulturradio

“The young singer, Sasha Cooke, enchanted the audience not only with her capacious voice, with naturalness in phrasing, with innate charm, as well as stage presence. She did not merely perform entertaining numbers. When the song called for it, Sasha Cooke recited, screaming downright shrilly at one point (in the first phrase of Leonard Bernstein’s “What a Movie!”) A gifted character actress, she gesticulated, moved in time to the music, even danced. All, however, within the bounds of good taste, stylistically fully realized on the spot. The shouts of “Bravo!” of the inspired audience accordingly validated the singer.”

Leyla Jaspers. Klassik-in-Berlin

“She took immediate possession of the hall with three of Aaron Copland’s “American Songs,” with her pleasing, tone color endowed voice, an empathic interpreter spinning gripping stories from the little songs. After the Caberet Songs by William Bolcom—for which Sasha Cooke found precisely the right naughty, off-Broadway tone—she was lionized. For each of the numbers that followed, by Barber, Gershwin, Weill and Bernstein, there was a long round of applause, because she has charm, terrific natural stage presence—and that swing, so seldom found in classically trained singers.”

Frederik Hannsen. Der Tagesspiel

“A still very young singer from California took the stage. She made her entrance in her blue taffeta gown, with such self-assurance as if she had been born a diva […]This mezzo soprano has the blues in her voice, she has that swing in every fiber of her body. Her voice is wonderfully clear, with a timbre of liquid gold. She rocked the Philharmonie right from the first note of the Shaker song, “Simple Gifts,” she moved the audience so that the out-of-office politicians awoke, and the B-list celebrities felt like A-listers. All applauded like crazy, right after every selection. They didn’t want to let her leave. Her name is Sasha Cooke, a name to take note of”

Eleonore Büning. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

“Cooke performed with a pure and lovely tone that contrasted beautifully with the orchestra’s darker timbres. In addition to its lyric beauty and flexibility, Cooke’s voice packed a punch with its ability to reach the back rows of the Lyric. …. She has a lovely and expressive voice, surprisingly bright for a mezzo.”

Timothy McDonald, The Kansas City Star

“The other disarmingly beautiful stretch of time came in the fourth movement with mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke’s poised, expansive song ‘Urlicht’ (‘Primeval Light’)… Cooke was mesmerizing, demonstrating that she has become a graceful singer with a rich, deep mezzo voice since her time here as a student.”

Harvey Steiman, The Aspen Times

“In the more intimate scenes alternating with all this male-dominated bomb-creating, the increasingly highly regarded mezzo Sasha Cooke is outstanding as Kitty Oppenheimer, realizing the part with perfect diction and a surprising degree of empathy.”

George Hall, Opera

“Sasha Cooke brings Kitty to life. We ache for her in her loneliness and frustration. Her rendition of the aria ‘Am I in your light?’ is poignantly moving.”

Arlo McKinnon, Opera News

“In both selections Cooke sang [Bach cantatas with the L.A. Chamber Orchestra] with fresh, vibrant, well-focused tone and sensitivity to the dramatic nuances of the text.”

Chris Pasles, Los Angeles Times

“Sasha Cooke is a big favorite of mine, and obviously of MTT as well. I can’t get enough of that rich mezzo sound with the bright soprano edge.”

Philip Campbell, Bay Area Reporter

“Mezzo soprano Sasha Cooke, who burst upon the operatic scene with her brilliant performance as Kitty Oppenheimer in the Metropolitan Opera’s premiere of John Adam’s Doctor Atomic, is a star in the making. She sings Britten’s charming ‘A Charm of Lullabies’ with a perplexing bitter-sweetness that lies at the root of these songs. … Sasha Cooke performs Henry T. Burleigh’s arrangements of American spirituals (‘Songs’) with affecting vulnerability and verve. In Barber’s Four Songs, Op. 13, she demonstrates the range and strength of her voice in these gems by one of America’s great vocal composers. ‘Sure on This Shining Night’ is especially memorable.”

Robert Moon, Audiophile Audition

“Most impressive, however, [in Mozart’s ‘Davidde penitente’ at the Mostly Mozart Festival] was Sasha Cooke, a mezzo-soprano who rose to the lofty exploits of the second soprano with dynamic, expressive and technical brilliance.”

Martin Bernheimer, The Financial Times

“[Cooke] is the next big thing in mezzos, singing with cut-glass precision and luminous depth — and here bringing a world of ultimate sorrow and longing to these Spanish songs. A genuine stage presence and actor, she embraced the false surface jubilation of ‘Cancion,’ a song about treachery in love, while pushing the underbelly of heartbreak up toward the surface. With its multiple levels, it’s a gorgeous trickster song, like Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Every Day a Little Death,’ and Cooke (who also sings Sondheim) knows just how to handle it.”

Richard Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News

“[Britten’s] verse settings found an ideal interpreter in Sasha Cooke, who, with Barnatan’s able support, made a smashing festival debut. The young American mezzo-soprano revels in a rich, tawny tone and honours verbal as much as musical values. The concert world seems hers to command.”

Allan Ulrich, The Financial Times

“The delight here was the lustrous and evocative singing of mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, who brought buoyant immediacy to the opening ‘Villanelle’ and an aching intensity to the lament ‘Sur les lagunes’ [in Berlioz’s ‘Les nuits d’été with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony].”

Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

“Cooke demonstrated a voice that combines the finest qualities of a lighter tone with a deeper range. The first song, ‘Anzolea avanti la regata’ (‘Anzoleta before the race’), was beautifully phrased with impressive musicality… Yes, Momolo won the race, and the mezzo rewarded him with extraordinarily clear and beautiful high notes in the final song”

Timothy McDonald, The Kansas City Star

“The evening opened with Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1, ‘Jeremiah,’ featuring mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, who gave a sensitively sung performance that captured the aching character of the piece’s Hebrew text and mixed tender moments with controlled power.”

Elaine Schmidt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Its [Respighi’s ‘Il Tramonto’] dazzling performance by the Miró Quartet and mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke opened the concert with a startling revelation….Cooke’s powerful voice displays the bright edge of a dramatic soprano, yet tempered with the clarity and warmth of a mezzo. A young singer, she made an impressive Met debut last fall as Kitty Oppenheimer in John Adams’s ‘Doctor Atomic,’ and her voice commanded the modest confines of Sherwood Auditorium. She opened with apparent ease the emotional floodgates the poet scattered across his so-happy-to-be-sad topography.”

Kenneth Herman, SanDiego.com

“The mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, partly of Russian lineage, brought her idiomatic diction to selections by Tchaikovsky and Sergei Taneyev. […] Elgar’s ‘Sea Pictures’ offered a potent demonstration of Ms. Cooke’s rich, supple sound and passionate delivery.”

Steve Smith, The New York Times

““…Elgar’s ‘Sea Pictures,’ which mezzo Sasha Cooke sang as ravishingly as I have ever heard them sung.”

Howard Kissell, New York Daily News

“The fine mezzo Sasha Cooke, who recently offered a vivid portrayal of Kitty Oppenheimer in John Adams’s ‘Doctor Atomic’ at the Metropolitan Opera, sang ‘Les Nuits d’été’ with an expressive, amber-hued voice. In ‘Sur les Lagunes’ tears ran down Ms. Cooke’s cheeks as she mourned a lost love.”

Vivienne Schweitzer, The New York Times

“The mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke—as Oppenheimer’s alcoholic wife, Kitty [in ‘Doctor Atomic’ at English National Opera]—possessed a fine lyrical voice and in an intimate scene in which she longed for her husband, she found once again that work observed all his time and energy. A member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Young Artist Development Program, Cooke’s a singer destined for a brilliant career!”

Tony Cooper, Norwich Evening News

“Of the soloists [in Handel’s ‘Messiah’ at Carnegie Hall], the mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke was the most consistently pleasing. Her burnished tone and carefully shaped lines invariably went directly to the heart of an aria, and although all the singers ornamented the repeats inventively, Ms. Cooke’s embellishments were expressive rather than merely showy.”

Allan Kozinn, The New York Times

“New to ‘Atomic’ is the gifted young mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, as Kitty Oppenheimer. Perhaps because she had no nostalgia for the old production, she was able to create a fresh, vital portrayal, bringing a luminous tone, a generously supported musical line, a keen sense of verbal nuance, and a flair for seduction. Even if the Oppenheimers’ bedroom came out looking oddly like a suite in an Ian Schrager hotel, their duet emerged as the most psychologically cogent scene of the night—a billowing of sensual delirium into white-knuckle reality.”

Alex Ross, The New Yorker

“Sasha Cooke sings with seductive fury.”

Justin Davidson, New York Magazine

“Leading [mezzo-]soprano Sasha Cooke appeared to have a major success.”

David Patrick Stearns, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“The scenes with Oppenheimer’s wife, Kitty, sung with aching, wistful intensity by the mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, are beautifully rendered.”

Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times

“Ms. Cooke did well everywhere. She has a strong, healthy voice, and she is a good enough musician to handle Schumann’s ornamental turns of phrase with ease and clarity… the chance to hear this music rendered so correctly was cause for gratitude.”

Bernard Holland, The New York Times