Obituary: Deborah Cook Dies At 80

By Francisco Salazar

American soprano Deborah Cook has died at the age of 80.

Born in Philadelphia, Cook went on to study privately with Irene Williams and studied at Temple University during the early 1960s where she performed in numerous student productions. She went on to make her professional opera debut on Oct. 31, 1965 at the Academy of Music with the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company, singing the title role in a concert version of Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.”

However, the performance did not get the attention of many and Cook continued to study with Williams, and Maestro Nicola Palumbo in New York City. During the 1960s she sang in many concerts and performances in Philadelphia.

In the early 1970s, she finally had a breakout when she won an important competition in Chicago and shortly after, in 1971, made her international opera debut singing Zerbinetta in Richard Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos” touring with the Glyndebourne Festival Opera.

That would be followed in 1972 when she joined the roster at Bremen’s Theater am Goetheplatz and later would make numerous German debuts. Her career would be based in Germany until 1985 when she moved back to the United States. During the 13 years in Germany, she appeared at the Hamburg State Opera, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Berlin State Opera, the Bayerische Staatsoper, the Staatstheater am Gaertnerplatz, and with opera houses in Augsberg, Bern, Geneva, Hanover, Kassel, Leipzig, Nuremberg, and Stuttgart.

Outside Germany, she also performed at the Royal Opera House, Grand Théâtre de Genève, and the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, among others. She also performed in concert with some of the greatest orchestras in the world including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Dresden Philharmonic, and with the Australian Broadcasting Orches.

During her career, Cook had an extensive repertoire that included such staples as Adina in Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore, Konstanze in Mozart’s “Die Entführung aus dem Serail,” Despina in Mozart’s “Così Fan Tutte,” Fiakermilli in Strauss’ “Arabella,” Gilda in Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” Lucia, Olympia in Offenbach’s “Les Contes d’Hoffmann,” Philine in “Mignon,” and Zerbinetta among others.

She also created a number of roles including Angel of Bright Future in the world premiere of George Rochberg’s “The Confidence Man” at the Santa Fe Opera, the Soprano in the world premiere of Anton Ruppert’s “…die Siebte,” and Rachel in the world premiere of Henze’s “We Come to the River.”

Upon her return to the United States, Cook focused on teaching at the Haverford College, Bryn Mawr College and at Westtown School.

Throughout her years active she left a number of recordings including Meyerbeer’s “Dinorah” with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Opera Rara, Meyerbeer’s “L’étoile du nord,” also with Opera Rara.

She is survived by her husband, Ronald, her son, Jeffery Sacks, her stepdaughter Shari and her husband, Rob Neidich of Philadelphia and their children, Marta and Lucas.

Here is the soprano performing from “Dinorah.”