Mezzo Memories: On The Passing of Gabriele Sima

[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:

4 thoughts on “Mezzo Memories: On The Passing of Gabriele Sima”

  1. Yes, that was a lovely moment, which – as such moments of do – seemed to last forever. And now I feel beset by a profound sadness for the loss of someone I didn’t even know except that I feel that she expressed something ineffable and deeply shared by many of us Thank you for posting this and accept my sincere commiseration.


  2. Yes, very sad but she must have had a happy life or at least very happy moments! That’s a nice performance indeed. So often I find the dressing up scene not very successful, difficult to find the balance between funny and ridiculous, here it works!


  3. I met Gabi in Holland and she stayed with my family when we worked with Harnoncourt . Later I stayed with her in Salzburg and Vienna . Many many wonderful memories of us singing and laughing together . Judith Mok


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