Cohen, 22, is a graduate of Princeton University who was recently selected as a national semifinalist in the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions. He has previously performed with the baroque ensemble Il Complesso Barocco; at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, Austria; with the Venice Opera Project; and with the Leipzig Barockorchester in Leipzig, Germany. Last summer, he also participated in the Merola Opera Program at the San Francisco Opera, an
We recently caught up with Cohen to ask him about how he got into singing, what he loves about early music and why he’s looking forward to performing with the Newberry Consort.
Q: How old were you when you first started singing?
A: I first began singing when I was in middle school. My parents had me join the Brooklyn Youth Chorus when I was in 7th grade, and it was there that I first learned to read music. Then, I went to high school at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts in New York, before heading to Princeton University, which is where I first got serious about singing. I had always viewed singing as a hobby, and I didn’t begin to think about pursuing a career as a singer until the summer after sophomore year at Princeton. As I changed my career plans (I originally planned to pursue a career in politics), I changed my major and began to devote myself to the world of music wholeheartedly. It has been a real joy ever since.
Q: How did you get interested in early music?
A: As a countertenor, there is a natural inclination to this repertoire, which we are privileged to sing so frequently. But it was through the process of listening to albums sung by great interpreters of the repertoire (singers such as Andreas Scholl, David Daniels, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, among others), that I began to understand the depth of possibility in interpretation of early music.
Q: Why do you love early music? Who is one of your favorite pieces or composers?
A: For me, the great joy of singing early music is the opportunity to enter into a long line of tradition that has lasted hundreds of years — the chance to pay homage to the great artists of the past and offer our own unique take on the repertoire. My favorite composer is Handel. I find his music to contain such great emotional depth. It’s remarkable to think about how deeply this man understood the human condition, hundreds of years ago — it puts everything in perspective. What is a great privilege to sing such glorious music!
Q: What is different about singing baroque and early music vs. later operas?
A: I find my artistic approach to differ depending on the repertoire I’m singing, but on a technical level, I am always trying to keep things consistent. With early music, I find the given sense of structure deeply rewarding — there is something so amazing to me about the emotions these composers were able to capture while operating within rather rigid musical guidelines, and that’s part of what makes it such a thrill to sing and listen to.
Q: What do you hope to gain by working with the Newberry Consort?
A: I am very excited for the opportunity to work with such a world class group of early music interpreters. The folks I’ll have the chance to sing and play with on this concert program are among the finest devotees of this repertoire alive today, and I can’t wait to learn from them through the process of performing together!
Q: Why is it important to work with mentors to grow as an artist?
A: Those of us who are lucky enough to have mentors who guide us along as we begin our careers are so fortunate — it would be impossible to take the proper steps without this guidance! I have been lucky to have numerous important mentors along the way, and I am forever indebted to them.