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Patricia Brooks (Soprano)

Born: November 7, 1937 - Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
Died: January 1993 - Mount Kisco, New York, USA

The American lyric soprano, Patricia Brooks Mann, took as a youngster lessons in music, ballet and acting and at the age of 10 won a WQXR-radio piano competition. She attended the High School of Music and Art and at 14 began studying dance with Martha Graham. But a knee injury from a fall turned her from dance to theater.

Patricia Brooks auditioned for Mr. Mann, who was smitten and confided to his partner, Jose Quintero, that he intended to marry the aspiring actress. Mr. Quintero cast her in Truman Capote's The Grass Harp and in The Iceman Cometh, with Jason Robards and Peter Falk, and she studied acting under Uta Hagen. She began folk singing and appearing in musicals, encouraged by her mother, Eda, a voice coach. She studied singing with Margaret Harshaw in New York and with Daniel Ferro in Rome. While singing in the chorus of nuns in The Sound of Music in 1960, she decided to leave that Broadway hit and switch to opera.

Patricia Brooks made her operatic debut as Marianne in Der Rosenkavalier and Musetta in La Bohème at New York City Center Opera in 1960. Maturing rapidly in her new medium, she won an enviable array of praise. Critics hailed her performances as charming, bewitching and dazzling. Her voice was described as sweet, velvety, free-floating, delicate, warm and rich. Her acting was called nuanced, subtle, sensitive, elegant, expressive and exciting. She helped fashion the modern standard for opera performers. In an era when audiences and critics began demanding that opera performers display dramatic as well as musical talent, Patricia Brooks, who performed under her maiden name, arrived with a non-operatic training that fit the bill. Her distinctive style drew on her earlier career in the theater and dance. Her opera performances won praise for her beauty, acting ability and graceful movements, as well as for her voice. Some classified her as a singing actress rather than an opera singer. "The public was clamoring that opera performers had to look and act the part, not just sing it, and she was the new wave," said Beverly Sills, her famed contemporary at the New York City Opera.

Patricia Brooks starred in numerous City Opera productions in the 1960's and 1970's, when she was in her 30's and 40's, notably in operas by W.A. Mozart, Puccini, Debussy, Strauss and Rossini. She appeared in the USA premiere of Egk's Der Revisor (1960) and the world premiere of The Crucible by Ward (1961). She sang at Santa Fe in the USA premiere of Henze's Boulevard Solitude (1967) and as Alban Berg's Lulu in 1974. She also sang with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and was a soloist at Carnegie and Alice Tully Halls. She made her Covent Garden debut in London in 1969, as the Queen of Shemakha in Le Coq d'Or. She appeared in concerts across the USA, including in Chicago, Toronto, San Francisco, Memphis, Houston, New Orleans and Phildelphia, and gave a White House command performance for President John F. Kennedy.

In an early review, Raymond Ericson of The New York Times wrote that as Gilda in Rigoletto in 1963, "Miss Brooks was attractive to both eye and ear, a musicianly artist and an intelligent actress." When she co-starred with Plácido Domingo in La Traviata in 1966, Harold C. Schonberg's review praised her for "acting with a delicacy of detail rare in opera." Her performances proved popular with audiences. An account of her appearance in La Boheme in 1961 said she "very nearly stopped the show." A review of Tales of Hoffmann in 1966 said she "brought down the house." And a report of her singing of Bellini with Marilyn Horne in 1971 said listeners were driven "into a frenzy."

Although it was undisclosed, eventually multiple sclerosis limited her breathing, so she retired from performing in 1977. But she began teaching voice and directing productions at the State University of New York at Purchase and gave private lessons for several years. When illness forced an end to her teaching, she turned her creative energies to oil and water-color painting. She died of complications of multiple sclerosis at her home in Mount Kisco, NY, at the age of 59. Her husband, Theodore D. Mann, was the artistic director and co-founder of Circle in the Square Theater. Besides her husband and mother, she was survived by two sons, Jonathan and Andrew, both of Manhattan and Mount Kisco; a stepbrother, Alan Brooks, and a sister, Joan Brooks Palermo, both of Manhattan.

Terrence McNally: Patricia Brooks was “an important and beloved figure in the New York classical music scene in the 60s and 70s.”
In the words of the late Beverly Sills, Brooks was “unique and fascinating… a breath of fresh air!”

Source: NY Times Website (Author: Bruce Lamberts, January 1993); International Who's Who in Music & International Directory (13th Edition, 1992/93)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (May 2008)

Patricia Brooks: Short Biography | Recordings of Vocal Works under her name

Links to other Sites

Patricia Brooks, 59, a Soprano Known for Acting Talent, Dies (NY Times)


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