The Australian baritone, Martin Cooke, began his vocal studies with Evelyn Hall de Izal in Sydney (1973-1980). In 1980, he obtained Associate Diploma in Religious Studies from Catholic Theological Union Australia. In 1984 he graduated with Diploma of Operatic Art and Music Theatre with 'Merit' from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, having studied there with Associate Professor Valerie Collins-Varga ((1981-1985)) and in the same year was a founding member of The Song Company. After winning various awards and scholarships, he went to Europe in 1985. He furthered his vocal education in Munich with the noted Australian international tenor, the late Kenneth Neate (1985-1997). Amoing his other teachers: Norman Tonge (1980) and Donald Munro (1988). In 1987 he won an Australian/Italian government scholarship to study the Italian language at L'Universita Italiana per Stranieri in Perugia.
Martin Cooke also appeared in the Salzburg Festival of 1987 as Tirsis in the highly acclaimed baroque opera Diana by Reinhard Keiser. He made his first appearance in Germany at the Bavarian State Opera in the Münchner Singschul' of 1989; a summer master course for young professional singers that is part of the Munich Opera Festival. He was chosen to be one of sixteen soloists to appear in the final concert, which took place in the National Theatre with the Bavarian State Orchestra. He ad an outstanding success as St. Peter, in the sacred opera Il Lutto dell' Universo-The Mourning of the Universe by Kaiser Leopold I of Austria. This performance was a co-production between the Bavarian State Opera Studio, Bavarian Radio and Television and St. Michael's Church celebrating the 450th anniversary of this historic Jesuit edifice in Munich. Il Lutto dell' Universo has been re-televised on several occasions during the Easter period since the first German performance in 1990.
Martin Cooke has recorded for BMG Classics as Bello in G. Puccini's La Fanciulla del West under the baton of Leonard Slatkin; featuring Dennis O'Neill as Dick Johnson and Eva Marton as Minne. In 1997 he appeared as Bello and Cecco in the world premiere of the opera Peter Pan; composed by Wilfried Hiller and produced by the late August Everding, this opera was performed in the recently restored Prinzregenten Theater and was highly acclaimed by the German national press. Peter Pan is now available on CD through Deutsche Grammophon.
Apart from his contract as the first Australian to be a permanent member of the Bavarian State Opera Chorus, Martin Cooke is in demand as a soloist in oratorio and concert performances in Munich and throughout Germany and Austria. He appears regularly as a soloist in Salzburg Cathedral and St Michael's Church in Munich. In June 2000 he interpreted the title role in Felix Mendelssohn's monumental oratorio Elijah in this historic city with the Salzburger Liedertafel, the Dresden Singakademie and the Dommusik Orchester, conducted by Domkapellmeister Janos Czifra. Highlights in 2001 included performances of W.A. Mozart's Requiem and Carmina Burana by Carl Orff.
In September 2003 Martin Cooke sang the baritone role in three staged open air performances of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana for the millennium celebrations of the city of Wolfratshausen. Further engagements included performances of George Frideric Handel's Messiah and in June 2004 two performances of Johannes Brahms' German Requiem in the Philharmonie concert hall in Munich. In 2007 he was soloist with the Chorus of the Bavarian State Opera for the mass celebrated in St Michael's Church Munich for the opening of the Munich Opera Festival. In August 2008 Cooke and Rosemarie Ammende-Haaf recorded a CD, Deutsche Lieder - Australian Art Songs featuring compositions that span three centuries. The selections include Lieder from Rosemarie Ammende's late husband, the noted Munich composer Dietrich Ammende, Lieder by Franz Schubert and the Art Songs of two contemporary Australian composers Phillip Wilcher and George Palmer.
On Good Friday April 2, 2010, Martin Cooke sang the bass arias in J.S. Bach's St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) with the Mozart Vokal Ensemble, Andechs Andechser Chorgemeinschaft and the Orchester "Ensemble Lodron" München under the baton of Anton Ludwig Pfell. The Süddeutsche Zeitung review stated: "Martin Cooke presented himself as a profound bass, vocally powerful, a beautiful sound and secure in intonation. Wonderful his aria "Gerne will ich mich bequemen" presented with unbelievable resonatoric depth."
His many engagements have taken him throughout Central Europe performing in such cities as Paris, Aix en Provence, Marseilles, Brussels, Vienna, Graz, Hamburg and Cologne. He has appeared in Tokyo and regularly returns to Australia for recitals and concerts.