Praised for her beautiful, profound, and even tone, as well as her artistry and dramatic capabilities*, contralto Sara Couden is equally at home in opera, concert, and chamber music. A former violist, choir singer, and literature major, Sara began seriously studying classical voice at age 23. She graduated from San Francisco Conservatory of Music with an M.M., Honors, in Opera, then went on to the Yale Institute of Sacred Music to earn her A.D. in Early Music, Chamber Music, and Oratorio, after which she spent three years at the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, from which she graduated in 2017. Sara has participated as a young artist at the Music Academy of the West and the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, and has been a fellow at the Marlboro Music Festival, Music@Menlo, and the Staunton Music Festival. She has studied with Marilyn Horne, Dolora Zajick, Ken Noda, Cesar Ulloa, Warren Jones, Roger Vignoles, James Taylor, Nic McGegan, Masaaki Suzuki, Fred Carama, and Ted Taylor, and has been coached by Renata Scotto and Deborah Voigt.
Sara made her Met debut as Tetka, the angry rock-gatherer, in the 2016 production of Jenufa. She then sang the role of the gentle and dignified Abbess Albine in Thaïs, and has covered Erste Magd (arguably the angriest of the Magds) in Elektra, Marta/Pantalis in Mefistofele, and the Voice from Above in Parsifal. As an opera singer, Sara offers a beautiful, profound, and audible low range, a lovely and controlled high range, and nuanced legato as well as accurate coloratura. She is adept at a wide variety of styles, from monody (Penelope, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria; Testo, La Susanna) to modernity (Baba, The Medium; workshop of new short operas by NYU composers). She is always eager to explore the tragic and terrifying, but is also a gifted and enthusiastic comedian, which comes out in pieces such as La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein, Falstaff, or Pirates of Penzance.
Sara’s rare vocal range and controlled audibility make her an ideal oratorio and concert singer, able to fulfill the demands of some of the most beautiful standards in the classical orchestral repertoire. She is a huge fan of the directness of concert music, the immediate and unfiltered possibilities of connection between artist and audience, and is excited about the possibilities of new work while maintaining absolute devotion to the standard contralto orchestral repertoire. Considering the depth and breadth of that music—Messiah, Mass in B Minor, both Passions, Elijah, the Alto Rhapsody, Mahler’s symphonies, song-cycles, and tone-poems, Elgar’s works, Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins—how could she (or anyone!) not do so?
Sara loves the in-the-moment sense of intimacy and possibility that rehearsing and performing chamber music can give—the exchange of ideas and feelings both verbal and nonverbal, definite and indefinable. She is equally eager to perform standard repertoire (Brahms’ viola songs are a beloved part of her repertoire, one of the first chamber music pieces she ever sang, even when she was mostly a violist at age 16, and continues to sing today) and new or rare work (Crumb’s Night of the Four Moons; Kristín Haraldsdóttir’s Bloodhoof; pieces by 16th-century nuns with New York’s TENET vocal ensemble). She loves to support and commission new chamber music as well, and is an eager and flexible collaborator.
Sara believes that accuracy and beautifully-produced sound are the foundations (though not the end goals) of stunning performance. She is constantly trying, learning, and improving on all fronts in order to be able to do the best, loveliest, most thrilling, most communicative, and most deeply-connected work that she possibly can. When she’s not striving toward these goals, she can be found watching silly TV, reading fiction, experimenting with cooking, visiting botanical gardens, and writing blunt poems on her phone.
Sara is managed by the kind and professional people at Musica Grande Artists—their website can be found here:
And follow @saracouden on Instagram to catch her adventures, impractical hashtags, and occasional laundry day outfits!
*by people other than her mother!