Legendary performer Barbara Cook, a 2011 Kennedy Center honoree and star of the original Broadway productions of “The Music Man” and “Candide,” 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 Cook’s silvery soprano, purity of tone, and warm presence have delighted audiences around the world for more than 50 years. Considered “Broadway’s favorite ingenue” 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 York’s Café Carlyle or Feinstein’s at the Regency, Barbara Cook’s popularity continues to thrive—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 “Sondheim on Sondheim,” directed by James Lapine, for the Roundabout Theater Company.
“Barbara Cook is the greatest singer in the world,” wrote the Financial Times’ Alistair Macauley in 1994 after her performance at the Sadlers’ Wells Theatre in London. “Ms. Cook is the only popular singer active today who should be taken seriously by lovers of classical music. Has any singer since Callas matched Cook’s sense of musical architecture? I doubt it.”
A native of Atlanta, Barbara Cook made her Broadway debut in 1951 as the ingenue lead in the musical “Flahooley.” She subsequently played Ado Annie in the City Center revival of “Oklahoma!,” followed by a national tour of that hit show. In 1954 her performance as Carrie Pipperidge in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel” led to the role of Hilda Miller in the original production of “Plain and Fancy.” Cook went on to create the role of Cunegonde in the original production of Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide.”
This was followed by her creations of two classic roles in the America musical theatre—Marian the Librarian in the premiere production of Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man,” a performance which earned her the Tony Award, and Amalia in the Bock-Harnick-Masteroff musical “She Loves Me.” Other starring roles included those in “The Gay Life,” “The Grass Harp,” the City Center revivals of “The King and I” and “Carousel,” the New York State Theatre’s production of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s fabled “Showboat,” Jules Feiffer’s comedy “Little Murders” and the Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center’s production of Gorky’s “Enemies.”
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 Sondheim’s “Follies.” Nominated in 1986 for an Olivier Award for her one-woman show at London’s Albery Theatre, Cook received the Drama Desk Award in 1987 for her Broadway show “A Concert for the Theatre.” In October 1991 Cook’s appearance as a featured artist at the Carnegie Hall Gala “Music and Remembrance: A Celebration of Great Musical Partnerships” 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