[Non c’è più (e ci mancherà): Gabriele Sima as Cherubino in Mozart’s “Le nozze di Figaro”, Vienna 1991.]
Most of you may not be familiar with Gabriele Sima, a long-term ensemble cast member of the Vienna Staatsoper who lost the fight against a lengthy illness this week, at age 61. The sad news struck a chord (so many wonderful musicians lost already this year!).
The sizely ensemble of the Staatsoper is a curious, at time frustrating entity: good in catching young talent, and in keeping them forever in the wings, in between smaller roles and nights where no big names are passing through. It is a place where it is not that easy to stand out.
Gabriele Sima did.
She finished her active career at the Staatsoper, which began at their then-studio, already in 1999 and later went into voice teaching, also in Vienna: very much a Viennese career. She was, however, the Cherubino in the Abbado-conducted “Figaro” in 1991, which was internationally broadcast – a fact that turned her into one of my first Cherubinos.
Back then, I was still more riveted by sopranos, but even so, I remember Sima’s face the most from this performance. She embodied the kind of tall, dark and handsome – not too lanky – with a solemn edge and subtle warmth that I should fall for a few years later for good.
This may have been my first brush with it: I did not know then that I would never recover.
[Marie McLaughlin (Susanna), Cheryl Studer (Contessa) and Gabriele Sima (Cherubino) dressing up and stripping down in Mozart’s “Le nozze di Figaro”, Vienna/Staatsoper, 1991.]
Look at that moment at the end, as of 2:57 – a figure in a dress approaching another figure in a dress and swaying her convictions with their earnestness: If we had a first story of stories, one that should be on a cave wall somewhere, it might be this.
I have to thank Gabriele Sima for showing me an early embodiment of what would become my truth.
Here, have the whole thing for three hours of nostalgia (though, good Lord – I had forgotten that this is a Jonathan Miller production), and for paying respect to a mezzo who may never have been first row internationally , but whom I will always remember: