Acclaimed Jewish countertenor makes Philadelphia premiere at Kimmel Center

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Acclaimed as a “young star” and “complete artist” by the New York Times and “extravagantly gifted… poised to redefine what’s possible for singers of this distinctive voice type” by the San Francisco Chronicle, American countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen is one of the classical vocal world’s most promising rising stars. On Sunday, November 6 and Monday, November 7, he joins The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia at the Kimmel Cultural Campus for a performance of Baroque opera arias and music under the baton of conductor Geoffrey McDonald.

A New York City native, Nussbaum Cohen’s life in music is rooted in his Jewish faith. Singing with his family in synagogue led naturally to joining the Grammy Award-winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus, which gave him the opportunity to perform in New York’s most prestigious concert halls. A solo singing opportunity then appeared when he was asked to fill in for the assistant cantor at East Midwood Jewish Center for High Holiday services.

The successful experience working under the tutelage of their Cantor taught him much about the rigors of preparing as a soloist at a young age. “It was the first time I was tasked with trying to shape things musically in a way that would be meaningful, and looking back in hindsight I learned so, so much from those early experiences,” the countertenor told Jews & Music Online in a 2021 interview.


His rewarding experience with the Youth Chorus also made him reluctant to shift to his lower register as he aged. While he mostly stuck to his newly baritone voice as he helped lead High Holiday services, he still felt uncomfortable singing in that octave and opted to use his falsetto for one of the prayers. With much encouragement from the congregation, he began to eagerly explore this unique voice type. He continued serving at EMJC for 9 years, taking a special sense of satisfaction from the unique blend of spirituality, ritual, and music that continues to inform his operatic career.

Nussbaum Cohen earned a Bachelor’s degree in History from Princeton University (with a concentration in Intellectual and Cultural History) and received academic certificates in Vocal Performance and Judaic Studies. During his senior year, he became the first singer in a decade to win the Princeton University Concerto Competition. Upon graduating, he was awarded the Isidore and Helen Sacks Memorial Prize for extraordinary achievement in the arts, granted each year by Princeton University to the student of greatest promise in the performance of classical music.

Since beginning his international career, he has been awarded by many major competitions, including the Grand Prize of the 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and a 2017 Sara Tucker Study Grant and 2022 Richard Tucker Career Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation. In the 2022-23 season, he will make three distinguished European debuts: at Bayerische Staatsoper Munich in his role debut as Endimione in David Alden’s production of Cavalli’s La Calisto led by Christopher Moulds; at Komische Oper Berlin as David in a new production of Handel’s Saul by Axel Ranisch conducted by David Bates; and at The Glyndebourne Festival in his role debut as Athamas in Handel’s Semele in a new production by Adele Thomas led by Václav Luks.

The Chamber Orchestra’s performances on November 6 and 7 include music of Handel, Purcell, Vivaldi, Gluck, and Respighi. Highlights on the program for the acclaimed countertenor include Handel’s “Stille Amare” from Tolomeo alongside “Impious wretch” and “O Lord, whose mercies numberless” from Saul. This is followed by Gluck’s “Che farò senza Euridice” from Orfeo ed Euridice, the classic lament from the composer’s beloved setting of Orpheus’s tragic love story.

Following these performances, the Chamber Orchestra’s 2022/2023 season includes several more Baroque offerings including a concert of Italian Baroque concertos in December, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons paired with Max Richter’s recomposed version of the same in January, and a concert highlighting the endlessly talented Bach family in April with conductor and harpsichordist Timothy Long.

February finds the ensemble moving several decades into the future with a Classical concert of Beethoven, Mozart, Saint-Georges, and Haydn with pianist Zhenni Li-Cohen. The season concludes in May with Beethoven’s 8th Symphony and the “brilliant” (Washington Post) violinist Sandy Cameron playing Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto.

A founding resident company of the Kimmel Cultural Campus, The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia is a 33-member professional ensemble led by Music Director Dirk Brossé. A Belgian conductor and composer of international acclaim, Maestro Brossé was appointed in 2011. Brossé has conducted many top orchestras, both at home and abroad including the London Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Boston Symphony. He has made more than 70 CD recordings and has collaborated with esteemed artists across the globe.

Founded in 1964 as the Concerto Soloists, The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia brings the intimate experience of world-class chamber music to Philadelphia—its mission is to enrich the musical life of the city and region through the excellence of its musicianship, the boldness and vitality of its programming, and by cultivating the loyalty of its audiences. Throughout its history, the Chamber Orchestra has performed with such guest artists as Hillary Hahn, Jeremy Denk, Simone Dinnerstein, Mark O’Connor, Wu Man, Anthony McGill, Adele Anthony, Alison Balsom, Leila Josefowicz, Steven Isserlis, Jessye Norman, Luciano Pavarotti, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Mstislav Rostropovich, Isaac Stern, Rudolph Serkin, The Eroica Trio, and many others.

Performances of “Countertenor Fireworks” featuring Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen and conductor Geoffrey McDonald take place on Sunday November 6 at 2:30 PM and Monday November 7 at 7:30 PM in the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater at 300 S Broad St, Philadelphia. To find out more information about the Chamber Orchestra’s upcoming season or purchase tickets online, visit ChamberOrchestra.org. Tickets can also be purchased directly from the Kimmel Cultural Campus Box Office by calling 215-893-1999. Tickets start at $29.

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