An artist increasingly in demand for her extraordinary versatility, Allison Cook recently made her debut as the Marquise de Merteuil in the world premiere of Luca Francesconi’s Quartett at Teatro alla Scala. She subsequently reprised the role at the Wiener Festwochen, Holland Festival and Cité de la Musique. Last season she made her debut as the Duchess of Argyll in Powder Her Face at New York City Opera and Le Festival d'opéra de Québec. She also featured in two other recent world premieres: Mark Anthony Turnage’s Anna Nicole (in the role of Blossom) and Michael Berkeley/Ian McEwan’s For You, both at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden.
This season Allison sings the title role in Saariaho’s Emilie at the Salzburger Landestheater and returns to the Royal Opera House as Margret in Keith Warner’s production of Wozzeck under Sir Mark Elder. She also joins the Britten Sinfonia for a staged performance of Phaedra at the Barbican Centre, London. Allison again reprises her role as the Marquise de Merteuil in Quartett with the Gulbenkian Orchestra under Susanna Mälkki at the Strasbourg Festival and Casa da Music (Porto). Other recent and upcoming highlights include Mme de Warens in the world premiere of Philippe Fenelon’s JJR (Citoyen de Genève) for the Grand Théâtre de Genève and Mahler’s Symphony No.8 and Berlioz’ Les nuits d’été, both with the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra.
Allison’s European success has been built on performances such as Der Komponist (Ariadne auf Naxos) in Strasbourg, Der Trommler (Der Kaiser von Atlantis) for l’Opéra National de Lorraine and at the Cité de la Musique, Valetto and Fortuna (L’Incoronazione di Poppea) with Les Musiciens du Louvre at the Wiener Festwochen and Festival Aix-en-Provence as well as the title role in the same opera in Dublin. Her noted roles also include Baba the Turk and Mother Goose (The Rake’s Progress) for Théâtre et Musique in Paris and the world premiere of Peter Eötvös’ Le Balcon in Aix-en-Provence.
Her ongoing association with the Royal Opera House Covent Garden has also included the title role in John Browne’s Babette’s Feast and Kate Julian (Owen Wingrave) as well as covering Countess Geschwitz (Lulu) and Ariadne in the world premiere of Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s The Minotaur. For Glyndebourne on Tour she has performed Prince Orlofsky (Die Fledermaus) and the title role in Carmen. Further afield, she recently sang the title role in La Cenerentola at the Shanghai International Arts Centre.
Allison Cook’s concert performances range from Les Dialogues des Carmélites and Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music at the BBC Proms to Schoenberg’s Das Buch der hängenden Gärten at the Louvre. She has sung with orchestras such as the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Münchner Symphoniker. Conductors and stage directors she has worked with include Sir Antonio Pappano, Sir Andrew Davis, James Conlon, Louis Langrée, Stéphane Denève, Marc Minkowski, Susanna Mälkki, Robin Ticciati, Richard Jones, Robert Carsen, Stephen Langridge, Àlex Ollé (La Fura dels Baus), Stephen Lawless, Marthe Keller and Irina Brook.
"The considerable task of around 70 minutes completely alone on stage falls to Allison Cook. The way the mezzo-soprano solves this theatrically and vocally is downright phenomenal. She mastered the extreme demands of the difficult vocal part which was predominantly in French, partly in English, with flying colours – be it during the more ordinary writing or the extreme and almost unsingable heights - and the rest of her role was sung with incredibly purity and sophistication." (Helmut Christian Mayer, Opernnetz, June 2014)
"Allison Cook spends one and a quarter hours demonstrating all manner of vocal and interpretative layers to portray a gripping and moving character. From delicate internal struggles to dramatic outbursts; from speech to a large aria; the mezzo-soprano shows a wide range of technique and huge potential to keep the audience present at every moment." (Salzburger Nachrichten, June 2014)
"The Scottish mezzo-soprano Allison Cook coped with the demands of the vocal part with flying colours, despite the extreme intervals and huge vocal scope of the piece. Standing ovations all round." (Kurier, May 2014)
"Best of all was Phaedra, where the mezzo-soprano Allison Cook was immersed in the dance, and became part of it. She caught wonderfully the queen's distracted passion, her lonely figure hemmed in by a sea of accusing dancers, as implacable as a Greek chorus." (Ivan Hewett, The Daily Telegraph, November 2013)
"...thanks to the lithe and charismatic mezzo-soprano Allison Cook, who not only sings with a rich, dark passion but prowls the stage with remarkable grace, Phaedra emerges as dynamic and inspired." (Debrah Craine, The Times, November 2013)
"His heroine is performed by magnetic mezzo soprano Allison Cook, who moves among the ten dancers in a detailed choreography of emotion: her body shuddering with small tremors of guilt, her fingers threading with despair." (Judith Mackrell, The Guardian, November 2013)
“Ms. Cook took the remainder of the show onto her shoulders, moving with consummate insight and dignity through one of contemporary opera’s most psychologically nuanced sequences…. [She] rose to the task, her Duchess a dark reflection of Strauss’ Marschallin for an age in which noblesse is no longer obliged.” (Steve Smith, The New York Times, February 2013)
“Allison Cook was the Duchess, in full command of her part, still looking glamorous in decline (as the libretto suggests she thinks she does), and singing strongly. She almost made us capitulate in sympathy to her plight at the end.” (John Rockwell, Opera, February 2013)
“Cook’s fearlessly intense performance.” (James Jorden, Musical America, February 2013)
“As the Duchess, Allison Cook was nothing less than superb. A compelling presence at all times, she handled the vocal and dramatic demands of the role stylishly and with apparent fearlessness. Again and again I was impressed by the timing of her gestures and utterances, the nuance which she brought to the expression of an elaborately constructed personality. Cook managed to be at once pitiable and commanding as she negotiated a path through her own history, until the last of her delusions was stripped, leaving her with only bitter truths about society and herself.” (paperblog, February 2013)
"They needed a visually exciting setting for this complex score, composed for two orchestras and two singers, with the Marquise de Merteuil sung by the extraordinary Allison Cook" (Giornale della Musica, April 2011)
"Most of the spectators were speechless after watching for an hour and a half without intervals, the cruel and ruthless erotic games of the Marquise de Marteull played by soprano Allison Cook" (El Pais, April 2011)
"Phenomenal…. It would be impossible to imagine a more beautiful, intense, predatory and tragically glacial Marquise than that created by Allison Cook." (Il Giorno, April 2011)
"Allison Cook is a perfect Marquise de Merteuil; an intelligent, cynical, sophisticated, androgynous beauty. Cook is a star with scenic charisma and voice control allowing her to withstand the sharp contrasts of the music and capture all the variety of expression in this dynamic role." (Teatro.org, April 2011)