Barbara Cook

Barbara Cook at the Met with Special Guests

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Non-classical concerts are a rarity at New York's Metropolitan Opera, and the venerable company had never hosted a female pop singer prior to inviting Barbara Cook (an old friend and supporter) to appear on January 20, 2006. The 3,700-seat house sold out without an advertisement being placed. DRG, Cook's longtime label, naturally recorded the show, which is more notable as an event than a performance, even though the singer is in typically strong voice. Of course, that voice is itself notable, coming from a 78-year-old woman, since it betrays very few signs of age. Working with a quintet led by pianist Eric Stern (the replacement for Wally Harper, who died in October 2004), Cook turns in a set full of familiar material, most of it drawn from vintage Broadway shows. On "Them There Eyes," Marcus Rojas joins her on tuba as she breaks out a kazoo. More seriously, she introduces guest Audra McDonald, who has the pipes to play the Met, although she humbly says she'd never have gotten there without the invitation from Cook. Faux-classical singer Josh Groban makes no such admission after Cook's generous introduction, even though it would be far more appropriate for him. He turns in a rote but harmless version of Stephen Sondheim's "Not While I'm Around," better fare than he's accustomed to, and wisely stays out of Cook's way during Sondheim's "Move On." Then the star of the show closes things out. The album is more a souvenir and a victory lap than a major addition to Cook's catalog, but welcome nonetheless.

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