, February 2013
Cooke leads with [Doctor Atomic] on her excellent debut solo CD, If You Love for Beauty, in which she is sensitively accompanied by Yehuda Gilad and the Colburn Orchestra.
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.
Cooke’s performance is an exercise in simplicity. In “Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft,” she floats a beautiful mezza voce as soft as the linden fragrance she is describing. “Liebst du un Schonheit” is sung with hushed intimacy, and “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” comes wrapped in a quiet, confessional tone of resignation and introspection. “Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder” captures the correct rapid-fire, gently comic air of frustration. In the stark “Um Mitternacht,” Cooke rises movingly from the depressive episode depicted in the opening to the great epiphany of the final lines.
Cooke lightens her voice considerably for the two Handel selections, “Scherza infida,” from Ariodante, and “Ombra mai fu,” from Serse. In the latter, she gives the opening note of the verse a glorious sustained crescendo.
Chausson’s heartfelt Poeme de l’Amour et de la Mer is a magnificently over-the-top work, one that one be hugely effective when performed by a singer of Cooke’s intelligence and restraint…she does not disappoint the listener, and her voice rides beautifully atop Chausson’s churning Symbolist score. © 2013 Opera News