American opera star’s Adelaide quarantine concert

Young American counter-tenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen has kept his fellow hotel guests entertained while quarantining in the city ahead of his performance in the 2021 Adelaide Festival opera A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Jan 22, 2021, updated Jan 22, 2021
American counter-tenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen is in town for the Adelaide Festival. Photo: Dario Acosta

American counter-tenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen is in town for the Adelaide Festival. Photo: Dario Acosta

While tennis stars may have been irritating their fellow hotel quarantine guests by hitting balls against walls to keep in form for the Australian Open, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen has hit a different note at Adelaide’s Playford Hotel.

Cohen, who comes from New York, arrived in the city 11 days ago and has been quarantining at the hotel since then. He is here to perform the role of Oberon in UK composer Benjamin Britten’s opera A Midsummer Night’s Dream, centrepiece of the 2021 Adelaide Festival program, and will also sing a recital at the Town Hall with pianist Konstantin Shamray.

To keep his voice tuned, Cohen has been practising each day in his level-three room, sparking curiosity among fellow guests.

Hotel staff and others have also gathered on the street below to listen to the 26-year-old singer, who has been hailed by critics as a rising star of the classical vocal world and in 2017 won New York’s prestigious Metropolitan Opera Auditions Grand Final.

On day nine of his quarantine, Cohen performed a mini “quarantine concert” for the Playford Hotel’s internal TV channel, usually used for things like quiz nights and fitness sessions.

After singing three pieces, he spoke with hotel employee Caitlin Astley, answering questions posed by guests about his life and career, which began in the Brooklyn Youth Chorus with whom he sang in New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, as well as at pop gigs by the likes of Sting and Elton John.

Cohen says he came to opera “relatively late”, after falling in love with the artform when he was a university student and won a ticket to see his first opera at the Metropolitan Opera.

“It’s got to take me to lots of fun places; that’s probably my favourite thing about being an opera singer,” he says in the video (below).

“And being here in Adelaide is high up on the list of the places I’m most excited to travel to. And it’s my first time in Australia, my first time in the Southern Hemisphere – I’m excited to get out and about in five more days.”

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Once he leaves quarantine, Cohen will be in South Australia for six and a half weeks. He will perform in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Festival Theatre from February 26 to March 3, and present his recital with Shamray at the Adelaide Town Hall on March 9.

The 2021 Adelaide Festival runs from February 26 until March 14.

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