Barbara Cook - RIP

NY Times and other sources confirm she has died at 89. A great singer, both in theater and cabaret.

Oh god, one of the greats is gone. I was in the audience in one of her Carnegie Hall concerts, and remember feeling moved by her voice and personality. RIP, Barbara.

“Sweet dreams be yours, dear, if dreams there be…”

Sad news indeed.

I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject but a friend of mine is an opera singer of some renown and she can’t say enough about how great Barbara Cook was. Here is one classic example:

She made it sound easy.


I remember hearing in an interview with Terry Gross that Bernstein insisted that each “Ha” in the famous bit (starts at about 2:32 in this link) had to be aspirated separately (not sure if that is the right term), that is, you had to hear every “aitch” distinctly, even in the shortest notes. Since then I’ve listened to a bunch of other recordings and she is the only one, apparently, who ever did that. Even Kristin CHenowith, who is otherwise adorable and perfect for this role, doesn’t do it. Maybe other music directors don’t care, but it’s something that once you hear it done “right” everyone else sounds sloppy.

Having said all that, I really prefer her later cabaret and concert work. She was a consummate singing actor, that is, she had a wonderful instrument that in lesser hands could have been just fine, but with her sensitivity and feeling, and with her always being present for every song, became moving, sometimes to the point of the sublime. It’s a combination I fear I will not meet again in this life. I thank the powers of the universe for recording technology.