This week, we spoke with superstar countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, a dear friend of PBO, who will be singing the role of Didymus in Handel’s Theodora next month. Just last season, he gave an unforgettably beautiful performance in the Jews & Music program, “Cantorial (Re)Volutions.” Let’s get to know him a bit better before the show!
1. What are you most looking forward to in your role in Theodora?
I’m just so looking forward to finally getting to sing this role and listen to this score played every day for a few weeks. It was the recording of the 1996 Glyndebourne production of this oratorio, starring my hero (and PBO legend) Lorraine Hunt Lieberson that first showed me what Handel’s music could be, and I still listen to Lorraine singing some of Irene’s arias before most performances I give, to inspire me to work towards that level of music-making! It will truly be an honor to perform this oratorio for the first time!
2. What is the wildest thing that has happened to you on stage?
One night on the opera stage, as I was hiding underneath a table in the center of the stage (hidden from sight by a large tablecloth), a colleague crawled under the table to tell me that because a different colleague was feeling sick, we’d be skipping forward in about 30 seconds to my next aria. People have often told me how important it is to be adaptable in this field, and that was one evening I definitely learned that lesson!
3. What is your favorite album?
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson’s Handel Arias album, conducted by Harry Bicket with the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment. The selections from Theodora are my most listened to tracks on Spotify! My non-classical favorites are Blue by Joni Mitchell, Break It Yourself by Andrew Bird and By The Way, I Forgive You by Brandi Carlile.
4. What is your dream role that you have yet to perform?
I have two—one baroque, Bertarido in Handel’s Rodelinda, and one contemporary—The Refugee in Dove’s Flight. It was arias from these two operas that won me the competitions that started my career, and I’m itching to have the chance to sing the full roles.
5. What is your most treasured possession?
My most treasured possession is probably the ticket stub that I tore off of the Met ticket the night I saw my first opera…I tore it off that night and said that I would one day sing on that stage and that I would carry it with me every day until I achieved that goal. I then carried it with me until that day came, when I made my Met debut in Hamlet in May. It’s now framed on my wall alongside the playbill from opening night and the crooked nail I picked up backstage before my first entrance!
6. What is your dream vacation?
A trip to Thailand and Vietnam—the cuisines of these two countries are my two favorites, the countries look astonishingly beautiful, and I haven’t yet had the chance to visit Asia!! I hope to have the chance to visit soon.
7. What is your most guilty pleasure?
Mochi Muffins and Donuts from Third Culture Bakery in Berkeley.
8. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Steak… and Mochi Muffins and Donuts from Third Culture Bakery in Berkeley.
You won’t want to miss Aryeh’s masterful renditions of some of Handel’s most exquisite arias and recitatives— grab your seats today!