The American mezzo-soprano, Sasha Cooke, was born in Riverside, California, but spent most of her childhood in College Station, Texas, where both of her parents are Professors of Russian at Texas A&M University. After beginning piano lessons at age 4, she took to choir and then viola. She is a graduate of Rice University and The Juilliard School. She also attended the Music Academy of the West, the Aspen Music Festival, the Ravinia Festival’s Steans Music Institute, the Wolf Trap Foundation, the Marlboro Music Festival, the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, and Seattle Opera and Central City Opera’s Young Artist Training Programs. She has been supported by Deborah Birnbaum, Steve Blier, Kathleen Kaun, W. Stephen Smith, Diana Soviero, Pierre Vallet, Stephen Wadsworth, Dr. Robert White and Brian Zeger, among others.
Grammy Award-winning Sasha Cooke has been called a “luminous standout” (New York Times) and “equal parts poise, radiance and elegant directness” (Opera News). She appears frequently this season singing Gustav Mahler, whose works she has sung to great acclaim on four different continents. Sought after by the world’s leading orchestras, opera companies, and chamber music ensembles for her versatile repertoire and commitment to new music, her season continues to bring world premiere performances and unique artistic collaborations.
Sasha Cooke’s past seasons have included performances with such wide-ranging conductors as Marin Alsop, Jirí Belohlávek, Sir Andrew Davis, Riccardo Frizza, Alan Gilbert, Bernard Haitink, Matthew Halls, Manfred Honeck, Jeffrey Kahane, James Levine, Ludovic Morlot. Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Gerard Schwarz, Leonard Slatkin, Tugan Sokhiev, Robert Spano, Pinchas Steinberg, Michael Stern, Michael Tilson Thomas, Edo de Waart, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, Pinchas Zukerman, and Jaap van Zweden. Orchestral engagements have brought her to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Amsterdam), Aspen Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Berkeley Symphony, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chautauqua Symphony, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Colorado Symphony, Columbus Symphony Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Denver Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Houston Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Kansas City Symphony, MDR Sinfonieorchester Leipzig, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Louisiana Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Lyon, Melbourne Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, I Musici de Montreal, Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke's, Tokyo Symphony, and. She has performed with opera companies around the world in the past including Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera, English National Opera, Opéra National de Bordeaux, Dallas Opera, The Israeli Opera and Chicago Opera Theater. Previous festival appearances have included Spoleto Festival USA, Caramoor International Music Festival, Lucerne Festival, Mostly Mozart Festival, New York Festival of Song, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Seattle Chamber Music Festival, Chamber Music Northwest, and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. She has performed at such prestigious venues as the Hollywood Bowl, Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Carnegie’s Zankel Hall and Weill Recital Hall, Wigmore Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Sasha Cooke opened the 2009-2010 season of the Milwaukee Symphony with Leonard Bernstein’s “Jeremiah” Symphony in the inaugural concerts of new music director Edo de Waart. She performed two engagements with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra - Igor Stravinsky’s Pulcinella and Berlioz’s Les nuits d’Été; joined Bernard Haitink and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for Felix Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and made her debut with the Hong Kong Philharmonic in G. Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde under the baton of Maestro Edo de Waart. She also sang Ravel’s Shéhérazade and Cinq mélodies populaires grecques with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; George Frideric Handel’s Messiah with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra; G. Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony with Jaap van Zweden and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra; L.v. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; W.A. Mozart’s Requiem with the San Diego Symphony; and Haydn’s “Lord Nelson” Mass with the Kansas City Symphony. On the opera stage, she made her Seattle Opera debut as Meg Page in Falstaff , conducted by Riccardo Frizza; and sang Medea in Cavalli’s seldom-performed Giasone at Chicago Opera Theater.
The 2010-2011 season brought several notable debuts for Sasha Cooke: with Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin in G. Mahler’s Rückert Lieder; with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Edo de Waart in Das Lied von der Erde; with Louis Langrée and the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra in W.A. Mozart’s Davidde penitente; and with Jeffrey Kahane and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in sacred music of J.S. Bach. She performed G. Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony with Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra as well as performing at the Luzerne Festival in Les nuits d'Ete with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra; reprised Alexander Nevsky and Johannes Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody with the Kansas City Symphony; essayed the title role in a concert version of Georges Bizet's Carmen with the Brazos Valley Symphony in Texas; and gave recitals at the Kennedy Center, Merkin Concert Hall, and the University of Minnesota.
Throughout the summer of 2011 Sasha Cooke sang at numerous festivals, including J. Brahms’s Liebeslieder Walzer at Caramoor and Music@Menlo, as well as the Alto Rhapsody and G. Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 under the baton of Robert Spano in the closing concert of the 2011 Aspen Music Festival. The season found her return to Carnegie Hall with Robert Spano and the Orchestra of St. Luke's in J.S. Bach’s Magnificat (BWV 243); she sang Debussy’s Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra; and made her Boston Symphony Orchestra debut under the baton of Jiří Bělohlávek in John Harbison’s Fifth Symphony. She debuted with Leonard Slatkin and the Lyon Symphony in G. Mahler’s Second Symphony, performed the Asian premiere of John Corigliano’s One Sweet Morning with the Shanghai Symphony, and toured with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in G. Mahler’s Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen and Chausson’s Poème de l’amour et de la mer. She also sang L.v. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Houston and Kansas City symphonies, premiered a William Bolcom piece in recital with Marilyn Horne’s “The Song Continues” at Zankel Hall, and joined Musica Sacra for holiday performances of G.F. Handel’s Messiah at Carnegie Hall.
During 2012, Sasha Cooke opened the Hollywood Bowl’s summer season in L.v. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Leonard Slatkin and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and also appeared at Music@Menlo and the RoundTop Festival. She appeared in the closing concerts of the Aspen Music Festival and the Mostly Mozart Festival, with Robert Spano in G. Mahler’s Eighth Symphony and with Louis Langrée in L.v. Beethoven’s Mass in C, respectively. Returning to the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, she performed songs by L. Bernstein, Copland, Bolcom, Samuel Barber and Gershwin in the inaugural concerts of new music director Tugan Sokiev in Berlin and at the Beethovenfest in Bonn. The season marked her San Francisco Opera debut as the title role in the world premiere of Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, as well as her role debuts as Magnolia in Francesca Zambello’s production of Show Boat at Houston Grand Opera and as Sonja in Dominick Argento’s The Aspern Papers at Dallas Opera. She returned to the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in L.v. Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas, gives the world premiere of Augusta Read Thomas’s Earth Echoes with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, appeared with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center both in New York and in Mecklenberg, Germany, and sang G. Mahler’s Third Symphony with the Orchestre de Lyon. She also sang L. Bernstein’s “Jeremiah” Symphony with Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and Alexander Nevsky with Pinchas Steinberg and the Cleveland Orchestra. She returned to the New York Festival of Song for a program exploring the lives of women, joined the Mirò Quartet for music of Ottorino Respighi and Schubert with Friends of Chamber Music Denver, and sang Das Lied von der Erde with the Columbus Symphony.
Sasha Cooke returned to the Hollywood Bowl in the summer of 2013 to perform G. Mahler’s Second Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, appeared at Chamber Music Northwest with Miró Quartet and Aspen Music Festival performing G. Mahler’s Fourth Symphony.
Symphonic engagements of Sasha Cooke’s 2013-2014 season include appearances with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra performing Benjamin Britten’s Spring Symphony, Pierre Boulez and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, performances of G. Mahler’s Symphony No 2. with both Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin with Tugan Sokhiev and Columbus Symphony conducted by Jean Marie Zeituni. She made her debut with The Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Cristian Macelaru and embarked on a European tour with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra performing G. Mahler’s Third Symphony. Also this season, she debuted at Wigmore Hall performing in recital accompanied by Julius Drake and at Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and as a soloist in Verdi’s Requiem; role debuts include the title character in Anna Bolena at Opéra National de Bordeaux. As a recitalist, she performed country at the University of Arkansas - Little Rock, Emory University, and Matinee Musicale in Duluth, Minnesota. Following a success in the 2012 season she returned to the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in concert with Opus One and David Shifrin, this program was reprised with Celebrity Series of Boston at Longy School of Music’s Pickman Hall. She also appeared with Chamber Music Northwest and Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. A frequent performer of contemporary works, she debuted the West Coast premiere and recording of Mohahammed Fairouz’s Symphony No. 3 (Poems and Prayers), appear with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in Phillip Glass’s The Civil Wars and perform a new work commissioned by Joby Talbot.
During the 2015-2016 season, Sasha Cooke sang performances of G. Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and New World Symphony, both under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas, and with the Tucson Symphony, G. Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with the Louisiana Philharmonic, G. Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, G.F. Handel’s Messiah with Trevor Pinnock and the National Arts Centre Orchestra, as well as with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and L.v. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Nashville Symphony and Seattle Symphony Orchestra. A frequent performer of contemporary works, her season featured the world pof Marc Neikrug’s Canta-Concerto with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Alan Gilbert. Her operatic engagements during the 2015-2016 season included her role debut as Magdalena in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg with San Francisco Opera under the baton of Sir Mark Elder. She also joined Harry Bicket and The English Concert in her role debut as Medoro in G.F. Handel’s Orlando on tour to Vienna’s Theater an der Wien, Birmingham’s Town Hall, Valencia’s Palau de la Música, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw, London’s Barbican Centre, and New York’s Carnegie Hall.
Sassha Cooke bookends her 2016-2017 season with opera performances of Engelbert Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel at the Seattle Opera and a world-premiere by composer Mason Bates and librettist Mark Campbell titled The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs at The Santa Fe Opera. Throughout the season her orchestral engagements include the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Riccardo Muti leading Prokofiev’s Ivan the Terrible, L. Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1 “Jeremiah” with Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra as well as Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin at Carnegie Hall, a set of concerts with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas that includes a semi-staged production of G. Mahler’s Das Klagende Lied paired with the composer’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and later in the spring Roméo et Juliette of Berlioz, G.F. Handel’s Messiah with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Alan Gilbert and a staged version of Verdi’s Requiem with Houston Grand Opera under Patrick Summers. Her season also features performances with Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for Christopher Theofanidis’ Creation/Creator conducted by Robert Spano, Milwaukee Symphony for G. Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 with Edo de Waart, Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem with Cleveland Orchestra conducted Matthew Halls and also with National Symphony Orchestra under Donald Runnicles, Minnesota Orchestra to sing and record G. Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 conducted by Osmo Vänskä, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra singing a concert of G.F. Handel, G. Mahler, and W.A. Mozart, then G. Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with Krzysztof Urbański and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Oregon Symphony for W.A. Mozart’s Requiem under Jean-Marie Zeitouni, La damnation de Faust by Berlioz with both Eugene Symphony and Aspen Festival Orchestra.
In addition to her successes in the standard operatic and concert repertoire, Sasha Cooke has premiered works by Jack Beeson, William Bolcom, John Corigliano, Luigi Dallapiccola, John Musto and Augusta Read Thomas, among others. She includes music by American composers in every recital program and next year celebrates some of her favorites on the opera stage as well. In 2012-2013 season, she performed Showboat at Houston Grand Opera, The Aspern Papers at Dallas Opera and the title role in the world premiere of Mark Adamo's The Gospel of Mary Magdalene at San Francisco Opera (June 2013).
On DVD, Sasha Cooke can be seen in a new production of Hansel and Gretel at the Metropolitan Opera and the Grammy Award-winning production of Doctor Atomic under conductor Alan Gilbert. Her recordings can be found on the Hyperion, Naxos, Bridge Records, Yarlung, GPR Records, and Sono Luminus labels. She now lives in Chicago with her husband Kelly and their one-and-a-half-year-old daughter Evelyn, who is already singing! Evelyn, called "Evi" for short, was named after Sasha's friend and mentor Eve Shapiro.