Saul is at the Wortham TheaterOct. 25 through Nov. 8.
If not for a karaoke 13th birthday party, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen wouldn’t be in Houston preparing for the role of David in Houston Grand Opera’s Saul this month. At 25, the Brooklyn native is among the world’s most renowned opera singers. Now San Francisco-based, the countertenor shares the high notes on his path to Houston.
I only joined the Brooklyn Youth Chorus after a mom at a karaoke party told my parents I had talent.
The first time I attended an opera was my freshman year at Princeton. I won free tickets to Franco Zeffirelli’s staging of Puccini’s La Bohème at The Met. I was so enchanted, I shifted career paths from public policy to opera. After college, I attended every Met production, supporting myself as a tutor.
My lucky breaks? In 2017 I won the grand prize at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and got glowing reviews in The New York Times. Then a premier countertenor cancelled a week before the performance. I was hired, and recorded it with the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios. The CD won a Grammy. That was surreal.
Deep down do I wish I could be a dramatic tenor and sing La Bohème? Sure, but there are very few countertenors. I’m happy with my fate.
This isn’t my first Houston rodeo. I won first prize at the HGO Eleanor McCollum Competition and was the first countertenor in HGO Studio history, from 2017 to 2018.