Legendary performer Barbara Cook, a 2011 Kennedy Center honoree and star of the original Broadway productions of â€œThe Music Manâ€ and â€œCandide,â€ among others, will conduct a master class with Harvard undergraduate singers. Admission free, tickets required; ticket distribution for Harvard affiliates (2 per person, with valid ID) begins Tuesday, March 26; for the public (2 per person), Thursday, March 28. Harvard Box Office, 617.496.2222 (phone and online ticket orders subject to service fees).
Barbara Cookâ€™s silvery soprano, purity of tone, and warm presence have delighted audiences around the world for more than 50 years. Considered â€œBroadwayâ€™s favorite ingenueâ€ during the heyday of the Broadway musical, Cook then launched a second career as a concert and recording artist, soaring from one professional peak to another.
Whether on the stages of major international venues throughout the world or in the intimate setting of New Yorkâ€™s CafÃ© Carlyle or Feinsteinâ€™s at the Regency, Barbara Cookâ€™s popularity continues to thriveâ€”as evidenced by her 1997 birthday concert with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Albert Hall in London, a succession of six triumphant returns to Carnegie Hall where she made a legendary solo concert debut in 1975, and an ever-growing mantle of honors including the Tony, Grammy, Drama Desk and New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, her citation as a Living New York Landmark and her induction into the Theatre Hall of Fame.
A Kennedy Center honoree in 2011, Cook recently returned to the Broadway stage after a 23-year absence, and was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance, in the musical â€œSondheim on Sondheim,â€ directed by James Lapine, for the Roundabout Theater Company.
â€œBarbara Cook is the greatest singer in the world,â€ wrote the Financial Timesâ€™ Alistair Macauley in 1994 after her performance at the Sadlersâ€™ Wells Theatre in London. â€œMs. Cook is the only popular singer active today who should be taken seriously by lovers of classical music. Has any singer since Callas matched Cookâ€™s sense of musical architecture? I doubt it.â€
A native of Atlanta, Barbara Cook made her Broadway debut in 1951 as the ingenue lead in the musical â€œFlahooley.â€ She subsequently played Ado Annie in the City Center revival of â€œOklahoma!,â€ followed by a national tour of that hit show. In 1954 her performance as Carrie Pipperidge in Rodgers and Hammersteinâ€™s â€œCarouselâ€ led to the role of Hilda Miller in the original production of â€œPlain and Fancy.â€ Cook went on to create the role of Cunegonde in the original production of Leonard Bernsteinâ€™s â€œCandide.â€
This was followed by her creations of two classic roles in the America musical theatreâ€”Marian the Librarian in the premiere production of Meredith Willsonâ€™s â€œThe Music Man,â€ a performance which earned her the Tony Award, and Amalia in the Bock-Harnick-Masteroff musical â€œShe Loves Me.â€ Other starring roles included those in â€œThe Gay Life,â€ â€œThe Grass Harp,â€ the City Center revivals of â€œThe King and Iâ€ and â€œCarousel,â€ the New York State Theatreâ€™s production of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammersteinâ€™s fabled â€œShowboat,â€ Jules Feifferâ€™s comedy â€œLittle Murdersâ€ and the Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Centerâ€™s production of Gorkyâ€™s â€œEnemies.â€
In 1974, Cook began a creative partnership with musical arranger, accompanist, composer, dance arranger and conductor Wally Harper, a shining model of artistic collaboration and enduring friendship, which lasted for nearly thirty-one years until his death in 2004. Numerous recordings and concert appearances mark the journey of this unique partnership, during which Cook and Harper traveled the world together and performed a number of times at the White House for Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton.
In September 1985 Cook appeared with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra as Sally in the renowned concert version of Stephen Sondheimâ€™s â€œFollies.â€ Nominated in 1986 for an Olivier Award for her one-woman show at Londonâ€™s Albery Theatre, Cook received the Drama Desk Award in 1987 for her Broadway show â€œA Concert for the Theatre.â€ In October 1991 Cookâ€™s appearance as a featured artist at the Carnegie Hall Gala â€œMusic and Remembrance: A Celebration of Great Musical Partnershipsâ€ underscored her commitment to two important causes: the advancement of the performing arts and support of AIDS research. Cook was one of the only American performers chosen to perform at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival in the fabled Sydney Opera House, and Musical America selected her as their 2007 Vocalist of the Year, the first pop singer to be so honored by this classical performing arts organization.
Image Credit: Mike Martin