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Grammy Award winner Sasha Cooke returns to sing with NZSO

Grammy Award winner Sasha Cooke returns to sing with the NZSO

Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke returns in April to perform with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra as it celebrates works by three great French composers.

Cooke, who last performed with the NZSO in 2012, will sing Hector Berlioz’s song cycle Les nuits d’été as part of Berlioz, Debussy & Ravel in Hamilton, Auckland and Wellington.

The outstanding American singer performs with many of the world’s top orchestras and opera companies and has been lauded for her interpretations of both traditional repertoire and new works.

In the past year critics have praised her world premiere performances as Laurene Powell, wife of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, in the opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs; and as the titular star of English National Opera’s Marnie, based on the novel filmed by Alfred Hitchcock.

“Mezzo-soprano, Sasha Cooke’s voice was luxurious, full-bodied and round, so powerful … She sensitively portrayed Laurene,” said the Albuquerque Journal.

Cooke is passionate about French composers and prides herself on trying different repertoire. “If you don't get crazy, awesome, spiritual happiness from performing, it just isn't worth it,” she’s said.

Berlioz, Debussy & Ravel is part of NZSO Music Director Edo de Waart’s Masterworks series.

Claude Debussy’s singular La mer features an expansive orchestration of his Impressionist work evoking the sea. The composer completed the work while living in the English seaside town of Eastbourne, but said he got much of his inspiration from paintings of the sea by artists Claude Monet and JMW Turner.

Le mer is an absolute masterpiece. It is one of the best pieces he ever wrote,” says de Waart.

Debussy had a long and occasionally fraught friendship with the younger Maurice Ravel and they influenced each other’s work.

Ravel’s Boléro, which the composer once wryly described as “a masterpiece…without any music in it”, is one of his most popular and well-known works. With its signature snare drum and a mesmerising climax, it has featured in various film soundtracks and was part of the storyline for the 1979 American comedy 10.

De Waart says despite the popularity of Boléro, there are many people who have not heard it performed live. In the hands of the NZSO, Boléro will mesmerise audiences, he says.

Berlioz, Debussy & Ravel will also feature the world premiere of New Zealand composer Salina Fisher’s Tupaia. It’s the first of the NZSO’s ‘Landfall’ works by New Zealand composers, commissioned by the NZSO to commemorate the 250th anniversary next year of Captain Cook’s landfall in New Zealand. Tupaia was a Tahitian navigator who travelled with Cook and acted as translator when Cook first met Maori.
Fisher won the prestigious SOUNZ Contemporary Award for her work Rainphase in 2016, which the NZSO performed last year. She won the award again in 2017 for Torino.

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