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.

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  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!

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  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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