Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Born to higher things

Barbara Cook, the breathtakingly full-range operatic Broadway singer best known for her 1957 career-launching role of Marian the librarian in The Music Man, has died at 89. I had the thrill of seeing her only once, in the 2010 Broadway revue Sondheim on Sondheim where she was clearly still at the top of her game in a haunting pairing of "Losing my Mind" and "Not a Day Goes By" duet with Vanessa Williams. She first landed on my radar on the original 1956 Broadway cast recording of Candide, where she masterfully conquered Leonard Bernstein's vocally gymnastic and deliciously contrapuntal "Glitter and Be Gay." In this tour-de-force comic aria, Ms. Cook, as the presumed-dead CunĂ©gonde who finds herself imprisoned in a Parisian palace and makes peace with her lot in life by not-at-all-reluctantly bedecking herself in jewels, introduced what has now become a coloratura holy grail of vocal dexterity that blends throaty pathos, wicked arpeggios and what she famously catalogued as "four E-flats over high C, six D-flats, 16 B-flats and 21 high C’s." It's always sad when a brilliant artist dies, but Barbara Cook left us a stunning legacy of music that's both technically perfect and gorgeously emotional. 

Please give yourself a moment to enjoy her definitive "Glitter and Be Gay" in her memory.

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