Praised by Opera News for her “unusually rich and resonant” voice, contralto Sara Couden is a premiere interpreter of operatic, chamber, and song repertoire. She recently premiered the roles of Ruth (PIRATES OF PENZANCE) with Winter Opera St. Louis, Israelitish Man (JUDAS MACCABAEUS) with Philharmonia Baroque and Ormindo (ERMELINDA) with Ars Minerva, and will make her Philadelphia Orchestra debut as Mother/Chinese Cup/Dragon Fly (L’ENFANT ET LES SORTILÈGES) and return later in the Spring for Dritte Magd (ELEKTRA). She will also appear as a soloist with the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and sing the Alto Soloist in MENDELSSOHN ELIJAH with Yale Camerata. She will debut with San Francisco Opera as Rita (THE HANDMAID’S TALE) next season.
Highlights of Ms. Couden’s 2018-19 season included a return to Carnegie Hall as the Alto Soloist in Karl Jenkins’ STABAT MATER, Dejanira (HERCULES) at the Staunton Music Festival, Testo in Stradella’s LA SUSANNA with Heartbeat Opera and Opera Lafayette, Bach cantatas at the Philadelphia Chamber Music Series, Shostakovich’s FROM JEWISH FOLK POETRY with the Chamber Music Series at Lincoln Center, Bach’s ST. MATTHEW PASSION with True Concord Voices, and a return to the Met to cover Marta and Pantalis (MEFISTOFELE).
In previous seasons, Ms. Couden made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Albine (THAÏS) and covered Erste Magd (ELEKTRA). She toured Japan with Maestro Masaaki Suzuki in Bach’s B MINOR MASS, sang Third Lady (DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE) with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Dryade (ARIADNE AUF NAXOS) with West Edge Opera and the Alto Soloist in MAHLER SECOND SYMPHONY with the Santa Cruz Symphony. She recently completed the Lindemann Young Artist Program at the Metropolitan Opera and has been a fellow at the Marlboro Music Festival, Music@Menlo, Music Academy of the West, and the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices.
Ms. Couden is an early music enthusiast and an indefatigable champion of modern music. A gifted actress, her vast repertoire includes roles ranging in style from the terrifying Baba (THE MEDIUM) to the tragic Cornelia (GIULIO CESARE), as well as the comic Dame Quickly (FALSTAFF) and Katisha (THE MIKADO).
Ms. Couden holds a Master’s of Music with Honors in Opera from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and an AD in Early Music, Chamber Music, and Oratorio from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. She has studied with Cesar Ulloa, Marilyn Horne, Warren Jones, John Churchwell, Ken Noda, Dolora Zajick, James Taylor, Fred Carama, and Ken Noda, and has coached with Deborah Voigt and Renata Scotto. She also trains at The Barrow Group, an acting school and theater in New York City.
Artist personal website here
Ormondo/Clorindo, Ermelinda, Ars Nova, 2019
Couden, a contralto with a strikingly wide range, gave the single strongest performance as Ormondo/Clorindo. Whether conveying faux madness or ardor, Couden employed her fascinating instrument expertly. Solid at the bottom and full of mobile colors higher up — now quavering, now rawly exposed, now humbly hushed — her voice animated the character’s rapid-fire oscillations. ERminlinda – San Francisco Classical Voice
Contralto Sara Couden, who sang Ormondo and Clorindo, was the unexpected vocal standout of this cast. ... New to the company, Couden proved to be a versatile, adept musician with a flair for comedy. Her upper and mid ranges were pure velvet while her lowest tones were strong, well shaped, and astoundingly beautiful. – Erminlinda – Broadway World
But equally remarkable (and more of a surprise) is the performance by Sara Couden as Ruth, the pirate's "maid-of-all-work" and Frederic's childhood nurse. Miss Coudon wields a lovely, strong contralto, her diction is crystalline, and what a comic sense! She's almost a head taller than most of the pirates, and rather powerfully built. All this lets her pretty much capture any scene she's in . – Ruth Winter Opera St Louis – Broadway World
Israelitish Man, Judas Maccabaeus, 2019
Couden was an expressively varied Israelitish Man, featuring some impressively rock-solid low notes (and an unforced upper register as well). Animated in her interpretation, she engaged the audience with a warm personality. – Philharmonia Baroque – San Francisco Classical Voice
As the Israelitish Man, Sara Couden deployed her huge and fluid mezzo-soprano to glorious effect in a range of vocal showcases — now tender and probing, now extravagantly athletic. One aria, “So rapid thy course is,” drove the audience into such convulsions of delight that applause burst out before the aria was even over. – philharmonia baroque Datebook SFChronicle
Gamut Bach Ensemble - 2019
Sara Couldon projected an aura of calm in the aria “In Jesu Demut kann ich Trost” (In Jesus’s humility, I can find comfort), her columnar contralto forceful without being overpowering. – Gamut Bach Ensemble – Broadstreetreview.com
Dejanira, Hercules, Staunton Music Festival 2018:
“Sara Couden...was phenomenal in this role. ...Her connection with the audience...was superb; she made us laugh uproariously at the bits of comedy that director Ethan Heard worked into the show (e.g. Dejanira emasculating Hercules by seizing his beer and remote control for herself while singing “Resign thy club”) but also held us all utterly rapt—and sympathetically a little terrified—with “Where shall I fly.” (She got a tremendous ovation for the latter.) ...[H]aving seen her...as Dejanira—a role that traverses emotions from anxiety to mourning, envy and anger to guilt—I would say there is now no limit to her expressive range. Her time in the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Program seems to have been well spent. And her voice is rich and powerful with delicious contralto low ornaments.” (Verdi Prati, verdiprati.tumblr.com)
Telemann’s “Canary Cantata,” Music@Menlo 2018:
“For charm and a sense of goofiness welcome in Menlo’s solemn precincts, nothing could outdo contralto Sara Couden’s performance... Telemann pours all the pathos of early Italian tragic opera into his music; this is transmuted into bathos by the libretto’s intense devotion to the tiny subject of the mourning. Couden milked this contrast with avidity, pouring audible sobs and wails into her deep, thick-toned voice, backing it up with grieving facial expressions and gestures of futility, even grasping at her clothes.” (David Bratman, San Francisco Classical Voice, sfcv.org)
Shostakovich’s From Jewish Folk Poetry, Music@Menlo 2018:
“I was particularly struck by Gilbert Kalish’s understated but intense piano playing and Sara Couden’s wonderful contralto voice, but the whole thing was terrific and hair-raising in a way that only the best Shostakovich can be.” (Wendy Lesser, The Lesser Blog, threepennyreview.com)
Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, Santa Cruz Symphony 2018:
“Urlicht...was beautifully expressed by Metropolitan Opera soloist Sara Couden...” (Fleur Williams, Local Santa Cruz)
“Contralto Sara Couden, in lustrous voice, was fantastic in the setting of Urlicht” (Joe Sekon, Peninsula Review)
Albine, Thaïs, Metropolitan Opera 2017:
“...made everyone in the theater sit up and take notice to hear her magnificent contralto pour out the devout phrases of Abbess Albine. She took ordinary Massenet and made it extraordinary with her opulent delivery. This is a voice I’m eager to hear in Bach or Wagner!” (John Yohalem, Music America)
Nurse- Arianne et Barbe-Bleue
West Edge Opera
Alto Soloist- Messiah
Alto Soloist - Perry's Stabat Mater
Postponed/Canceled due to Covid-19
Rita/Offred's mother (cover)/Handmaid's Tale
San Francisco Opera
Mother/Chinese Cup/Dragonfly - L'Enfant et les sortilèges
February 13-15, 2020
Brooklyn Art Song Society
Alto Soloist - Elijah
April 3-5, 2020
Maidservant 3 - Elektra
May 15,17,19 2020