For Brooklyn-born countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, playing Oberon the king of the fairies is a dream role, worth the commitment of arriving in Australia some two months before the Benjamin Britten opera A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens at Adelaide Festival to make time for hotel quarantine under his visa requirements before beginning rehearsals.

When Limelight speaks to Nussbaum Cohen at his San Francisco home via Zoom, he is contemplating the necessity of travelling from the United States without his partner and wife-to-be, school-teacher Abbigail Schrek, though the pair were able to spend 10 months together during 2020 when COVID-19 meant he could not travel to perform.

Aryeh Nussbaum CohenCountertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen. Photo © Dario Acosta

Nevertheless two weeks strictly alone in an Adelaide hotel “will definitely be a challenge for me”, laughs the 26-year-old singer, who is also a keen marathon runner and bushwalker. “I’m a very sociable and active, outdoorsy kind of person.”

Playing Oberon is “a touchstone as a countertenor,” he says, “because it’s the first operatic role written for a countertenor, at least that we know of. In the baroque era we know there were all these castrati that were performing,...