Met Opera Auditions Yield a Young Star

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Met Opera Auditions Yield a Young Star: Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen

By ZACHARY WOOLFEMARCH 20, 2017

Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen - Credit Richard Termine for The New York Times

Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen - Credit Richard Termine for The New York Times

There were several good singers onstage Sunday afternoon at the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions Grand Finals concert, a venerable tryout for future stars. (Renée Fleming, the event’s host, was a winner in 1988, on her third attempt.)

But there was only one complete artist. At just 23, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, a baby-faced countertenor from Brooklyn, already possesses a remarkable gift for intimate communication in a vast hall, combined with a voice of velvety gentleness — surprisingly penetrating given the tenderness of its texture — and a taste for adventure.

In a competition that hews toward the standards, Mr. Cohen chose a harrowing aria from Jonathan Dove’s 1998 opera “Flight,” based on the true story of an Iranian refugee stranded for years in a Paris airport. While most young performers in the National Council Auditions concentrate simply on nailing their high notes, Mr. Cohen — his diction superb, his acting alert without overplaying — provided an eloquent reflection on a current international crisis.

But he is no contemporary specialist. Twenty-first-century singers, like 21st-century instrumentalists and orchestras, are rightly expected to range widely as well as deeply. For his second selection (the nine finalists each picked two pieces to perform with the Met orchestra, conducted by Nicola Luisotti), Mr. Cohen balanced the aria from “Flight” with “Dove sei,” an aching lament from Handel’s “Rodelinda” (1725). Expressive yet dignified, his phrasing confident and his ornamentation stylishly discreet, he brought tears to my eyes.

Mr. Cohen was deservedly named one of the competition’s six winners, but he stood clearly apart from the pack. Not that there weren’t other talents on offer. I appreciated Samantha Hankey’s mellow mezzo-soprano; the budding heldentenor Kyle van Schoonhoven’s steady, burnished sound; the soprano Kirsten MacKinnon’s liveliness. Vanessa Vasquez impressed merely by acquitting herself in two of opera’s most recognizable soprano hits, “Un bel dì” from “Madama Butterfly” (here nicely dreamy) and “Sempre libera” from “La Traviata.” Richard Smagur offered old-fashioned poise, verging on staidness, in tenor arias from “Carmen” and “Werther.”

Samantha Hankey - Credit: Richard Termine for The New York Times 

Samantha Hankey - Credit: Richard Termine for The New York Times 

Even the three finalists not named winners were pleasing. Natalie Image’s soprano was notable for its pristine high notes, Gabriella Reyes de Ramírez’s for its generosity. Cody Quattlebaum, his bass-baritone voice more restrained than his bicep-length mane of curly hair, was unusually low-key as Mozart’s Figaro and Gounod’s Méphistophélès.

But there was only one singer who could plausibly stand with the voluptuous-voiced Jamie Barton, the commanding Amber Wagner and the impassioned Michael Fabiano — the distinguished previous winners who performed while the judges deliberated. Mr. Cohen is ready.

District Auditions Results 2016

District Winners and moving on to the Region Finals on January 18th:

Mary Claire Curran
Michael Gracco
Lawson Anderson
Betsy Diaz
Samantha Hankey
Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen
Cody Quattlebaum
Emily Misch
Anna Dugan
Julie Wolcott
Jonathan Tetelman
Heather Bobeck

Encouragement Winners:

Alaysha Fox
Yesul Yeon
Kirsten Scott
Derrell Acon

Congratulations to everyone 👏🏻

2016 Launch Event

Countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński - Age 25 - 2016 Grand Finals Winner

Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński, winner of the 2015 Marcella Sembrich International Vocal Competition, is quickly gaining a reputation as a singer of striking vocal beauty and daring stage craft.

While working toward his Master’s degree in vocal performance at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw, he participated in the prestigious young artist programs at both Teatr Wielki and Opera Narodowa. Since fall, 2015, he has been working toward his Graduate Diploma at The Juilliard School, studying with Edith Wiens.

While in Poland, Mr. Orliński performed the roles of Cupid in Venus & Adonis by Blow and Narciso in Agrippina by Handel. While in Germany, he performed the role of Ruggiero in Handel’s Alcina in Aachen and Cottbus, performed select Purcell songs with ballet at the Leipzig Opera House, Philippus in Telemann’s Der Misslungene Braut-Wechsel oder Richardus I, (based on Handel’s Riccardo Primo, Re d’Inghilterra) in Gießen.

Jakub Orliński has triumphed in several vocal competitions: the 1st and 2nd annual International Early Music Vocal Competitions in Poland, where he received “Special Mention” and “Special Prize,” respectively, first prize at Rudolf Petrák’s Singing Competition in Slovakia, 3rd place at the Debut Competition in Igersheim, Germany, Special Mention at the 8th Annual Mazovian Golden Voices Competition in Poland, and 3rd place at Le Grand Prix de l’Opera in Bucharest, Romania.

In his spare time, Mr. Orliński enjoys breakdancing, in addition to other styles of dance. His achievements in this arena include prizes in many dance competitions: 4th place at the Red Bull BC One Poland Cypher competition, 2nd place on the Stylish Strike – Top Rock Contest and 2nd place at The Style Control competition, to name a few. He has also been featured in a video, filmed in Bangkok for the street wear company CROPP, as well as featured as a dancer, model and acrobat in campaigns for Levi’s, Nike, Turbokolor, Samsung, Mercedes-Benz, MAC Cosmetics, Danon and Algida.

Soprano Alaysha Fox - Age 25 - ER Region Finalist Encouragement Winner

Soprano Alaysha Fox is an emerging artist based in New York City. Recently, Ms. Fox sang in Lee Mingwei’s exhibit Sonic Blossom with MetLiveArts. Some previous credits include: First Lady (Die Zauberflӧte), Dee Legendary (Legendary, Beck), Lady Macbeth (Macbeth, Bloch), Female Chorus(The Rape of Lucretia),  Penelope(Penelope), Donna Anna (Don Giovanni).

Ms. Fox has been honored with several award including: an encouragement award in the Eastern region Metropolitan Opera council auditions, 2015 winner of the Joan Taub Ades Vocal competition, an encouragement award  North Carolina District Metropolitan Opera Council auditions, and the Lotte Lenya emerging artist award. She holds a Master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music.

Mezzo-Soprano Kirsten Scott - Age 27 - 2014 ER District Winner

Kirsten Scott has been described as a “creamy toned” mezzo with “charm to burn.” She made her Lincoln Center concert debut this past May singing Rossini’s “Una voce poco fa” at the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center. She was a Young Artist at Florida Grand Opera in 2015 and a Resident Artist at Portland Opera later that same year.

To commemorate the 225th year of the New York Supreme Court, Ms. Scott was selected by renowned soprano Martina Arroyo to perform for Ruth Bader Ginsberg and other prominent New York court officials in “The Trial of Don Giovanni.” In 2014 she was named an eastern district winner for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Her opera credits include Pepa in Granados’ Goyescas with Bare Opera (NYC), Rosina in The Barber of Seville with Martina Arroyo’s Prelude to Performance, Vera Boronel in Menotti’s The Consul with Florida Grand Opera, Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro with Loft Opera (NYC), Zerlina in Don Giovanni, and Stephano in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette.

Ms. Scott is artistically versatile and deeply committed to making opera accessible to a wider audience. This summer, under the direction of David Paul, she performed the reinterpreted role of Octavian in Strauss’ famous duet, The Presentation of the Rose. This was the first-ever opera scene filmed in virtual reality and is set for release in fall 2016. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College in Massachusetts and a Master of Music degree from Mannes College in New York City. While not on the road, Ms. Scott divides her time between Los Angeles and New York City.

Bass-Baritone Ryan Speedo Green - 2011 Grand Finals Winner

Praised by Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times for his “robust voice” and Anne Midgette of the Washington Post as an artist “fully ready for a big career,” Bass-Baritone Ryan Speedo Green is quickly establishing himself as an artist of international demand at the world’s leading opera houses. The 2016 – 2017 season sees Mr. Green’s return to the Metropolitan Opera as Colline in the iconic Zeffirelli production of La Boheme, as well as his house and role debut as Osmin in the James Robinson production of Die Entführung aus dem Serail at Houston Grand Opera. Mr. Green will also return to the Wiener Staatsoper for his third season as an ensemble member with roles including Basilio in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Timur in Turandot, among others. Additional engagements include his role and house debut as Escamillo in Carmen with Opera San Antonio. Concert work includes Basilio in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with the Santa Cruz Symphony, conducted by music director Daniel Stewart.


Mr. Green returned to the Wiener Staatsoper as an ensemble member during the 2015 – 2016 season where his roles included Varlam in Boris Godunov, Timur in a new production of Turandot, Basilio in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Rochefort in Anna Bolena, Angelotti in Tosca, Hans in Undine, and 5th Jew in Salome, among other assignments. Additional appearances included Ferrando in Il Trovatore with Opera de Lille’s traveling production as well as his debut with the Salzburg Festival as the Third King in Die Liebe der Danae. Mr. Green made his Met stage debut as a Lindemann Young Artist, singing the Mandarin in Turandot, with additional appearances including Rambo in the premier of The Death of Klinghoffer conducted by David Robertson, the Second Knight in a new production of Parsifal which was broadcast as part of the Met’s Live in HD program, the Bonze in Madama Butterfly, and the Jailer in Tosca. He made his debut at the Wiener Staatsoper as Sparafucile in a new production of Rigoletto, and went on to sing Basilio in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Fouquier Tinville in Andrea Chénier, the Monk in Don Carlo, the Pope in Lady Macbeth of Mzensk, Angelotti in Tosca, and the King in Aida.


Additional operatic engagements include the Commendatore in Don Giovanni at The Juilliard School, Colline in La Bohème with Central City Opera, Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola as a resident artist with Opera Colorado, and Son Beau-Pere in a new production of Milhaud’s Le pauvre matelot and Zuniga in Carmen with the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap Opera. Orchestral appearances include Strauss’s Daphne with the Cleveland Orchestra conducted by music director Franz Welser-Möst, his debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra as Second Soldier in Salome under the baton of Andris Nelsons, a debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra singing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the bass solo in Verdi’s Requiem with Hartford Chorale, Mozart’s Coronation Mass with the Virginia Symphony, and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Florida Symphony and Norwalk Symphony Orchestras. Mr. Green was also a featured soloist in a celebration of song honoring Carlisle Floyd’s 85th Birthday with the Florida State University Department of Music, conducted by the composer.


Honors and awards include National Grand Finals winner of the 2011 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a 2014 George London Foundation Award, a 2014 Annenberg grant recipient, a 2014 Gerda Lissner Foundation First Prize winner, both the Richard and Sara Tucker Grants from the Richard Tucker Foundation, and a finalist in the Palm Beach Opera Competition.
A native of Suffolk, Virginia, Mr. Green received a Master of Music degree from Florida State University, a Bachelor of Music degree from the Hartt School of Music, and was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.

In the fall of 2016, Little, Brown will publish Sing for Your Life, by New York Times journalist Daniel Bergner. The book tells the story of Mr. Green’s personal and artistic journey: from a trailer park in southeastern Virginia and from time spent in Virginia’s juvenile facility of last resort to the Met stage.
“Absolutely riveting” — Renée Fleming, Grammy Award-winning soprano
“A thrilling and authentic work of art” — Peter Gelb, General Manager, Metropolitan Opera
Sing for Your Life: A Story of Race, Music, and Family by Daniel Bergner
Hardcover and Ebook edition available on September 27th
 

The touching, triumphant story of a young black man's journey from violence and despair to one of the world's most elite artistic institutions, as if The Blind Side were set in the world of opera.
Ryan Speedo Green had a tough upbringing in southeastern Virginia: his family lived in a trailer park and later a bullet-riddled house across the street from drug dealers. His father was absent; his mother was volatile and abusive.


At the age of twelve, Ryan was sent to Virginia's juvenile facility of last resort. He was placed in solitary confinement. He was uncontrollable, uncontainable, with little hope for the future.
In 2011, at the age of twenty-four, Ryan won a nationwide competition hosted by New York's Metropolitan Opera, beating out 1,200 other talented singers. Today, he is a rising star performing major roles at the Met and Europe's most prestigious opera houses.


SING FOR YOUR LIFE chronicles Ryan's suspenseful, racially charged and artistically intricate journey from solitary confinement to stardom. Daniel Bergner takes readers on Ryan's path toward redemption, introducing us to a cast of memorable characters--including the two teachers from his childhood who redirect his rage into music, and his long-lost father who finally reappears to hear Ryan sing. Bergner illuminates all that it takes--technically, creatively--to find and foster the beauty of the human voice. And Sing for Your Life sheds unique light on the enduring and complex realities of race in America.

Michał Biel  - Collaborative Pianist (with Jakub Józef Orliński)

Born in 1990, Michał Biel is a Polish pianist and vocal coach. In 2014, he graduated from the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice, where he studied piano under Andrzej Jasiński and chamber music under Grzegorz Biegas.


He has been awarded several prizes and accolades over the years, including Prize for Outstanding Young Pianist at the 9th International S. Moniuszko Vocal Competition, Best Young Accompanist at “Le Grand Prix de l'Opera” in Bucharest (2015); Outstanding Accompaniment at the 10th L. Różycki Vocal Competition in Gliwice (2015); First Prize at the Academic Competition of Art Song in Wrocław (2013); Outstanding Accompaniment at the 9th Ludomir Różycki Polish Vocal Competition in Gliwice (2013); First Prize in the Piano Duo category at the 23rd Roma International Piano Competition (2013); Second Prize at 17th F.Schubert International Piano Duo Competition in Jesenik (2011); and First Prize at the 11th Juliusz Zarębski International Music Competition in Łomianki (2011). He has also participated in several residencies as pianist and coach, including Internationale Meistersinger Akademie in Neumarkt (2016), The Song Continues at Carnegie Hall (2016), the Mozart Residency at The Academié du Festival d'Aix (2015), the 31st Winter Vocal Course in Duszniki Zdrój, and Wratislavia Cantans Festival (2013). In November 2013, he worked as a vocal coach and harpsichordist in a student production of “Don Giovanni,” which was a coproduction of the Academy of Music in Katowice and Louisville, Kentucky. Since June 2013, he has been a member of the Opera Academy at Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera, where he worked with Izabela Kłosińska, Rudolf Piernay, Neil Shicoff, Richard Cross, Brenda Hurley, Eytan Pessen, Olga Pasichnyk and Matthias Rexroth. 


He is the Recipient of the 2016 Marc and Eva Stern Fellowship at SongFest (Los Angeles), and is a Jerome L. Greene Fellow pursuing his master’s degree in Collaborative Piano at The Juilliard School studying with Brian Zeger, Margo Garrett, Jonathan Feldman, and JJ Penna.

Doug Martin - Pianist

Mr. Martin conducts Fledermaus this Holiday season   for Amore Opera.  Last season Maestro Martin conducted a gala at Amore which featured Met singers Francisco Casanova and Aprile Millo. 
   
Mr. Martin has treasured an association of almost 20 years with the astounding Eve Queler who will celebrate her 50th year with Opera Orchestra of New York this coming season.
  
Mr. Martin is one of the not many people who can say they've conducted 100 performances of Puccini’s La Boheme.  Doug was one of two conductors of Baz Luhrmann’s La Boheme on Broadway.  The  opera was sung without cuts in Italian with 28 piece orchestras in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles.
 
Mr. Martin has a Performer’s Certificate in piano from SUNY Fredonia, and a Masters of Music degree in piano performance from University of Indiana Bloomington -  where he worked extensively with Virginia Zeani, and John Wustman.  

As an Associate Instructor at IU - he coached productions including Wozzeck, and Love for Three Oranges; while attending classes alongside Gayletha Nichols!