Barbara Cook, whose shimmering soprano made her one of Broadway’s leading ingenues and later a major cabaret and concert interpreter of popular American song, has died. She was 89.
Cook died early Tuesday of respiratory failure at her home in Manhattan, surrounded by family and friends, according to publicist Amanda Kaus. Her last meal was vanilla ice cream.
Throughout her nearly six decades on stage, Cook’s voice remained remarkably supple, gaining in emotional honesty and expanding on its natural ability to go straight to the heart.
On Broadway, Cook was best known for three roles: her portrayal of the saucy Cunegonde in Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” (1956); librarian Marian opposite Robert Preston in “The Music Man” (1957); and Amalia Balash, the letter-writing heroine of “She Loves Me” (1963).
Yet when Cook’s pert ingenue days were over, she found a second, longer career in clubs and concert halls, working for more than 30 years with Wally Harper, a pianist and music arranger. Harper helped in shaping her material, choosing songs and providing the framework for her shows.
To celebrate her 80th birthday, she appeared with the New York Philharmonic in two concerts in November 2007 and then had a similar birthday salute in London. In 2011, she was saluted at the Kennedy Center Honors and remained a singer even in her 80s.
“Of course, I think I’ve gotten better at it,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press in her Manhattan home in 2011. “I still think this is a work in progress. I do. Seriously. As the years go by, I have more and more courage to go deeper and deeper and deeper.”
Born in Atlanta in 1927, Cook always hated vocal exercises, never had a vocal coach and had an effortless skill of creating beauty by just…