Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen is one of the few Jewish opera singers in the country. (Photo/Kristen Loken)
Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen (Photo/Kristen Loken)

S.F. Opera musicians get together virtually for video of Ravel’s ‘Kaddish’

Inspired by the mantras “adversity is the mother of invention” and “boredom breeds creativity,” two San Francisco-based Jewish musicians from the opera world teamed up to produce a video of French composer Maurice Ravel’s “Kaddish,” timed to coincide with Passover.

Until recently, pianist Ronny Michael Greenberg, originally from Montreal, and countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, originally from Brooklyn, were both employed by the San Francisco Opera. Both also had been Adler Fellows, a residency for young opera artists, and decided to make San Francisco their home after their fellowships were over.

“Ronny and I are both out of work indefinitely, due to the coronavirus outbreak, and we were discussing what we could do,” said Nussbaum Cohen. “We wanted to make music together, and to hopefully bring a few moments of respite to folks during this difficult time.”

Nussbaum Cohen marveled that even though composer Ravel wasn’t Jewish, he “really got it” when composing this piece.

“Amid this shelter in place, we recorded a ‘video merge’ of Ravel’s ‘Kaddish’ to connect with our Jewish tradition, and to share hope and a prayer for our community,” said Greenberg.

The musicians live only three blocks from each other but recorded the piece separately.

“We worked through a few ways to put together this piece, which is very improvisatory artistically, and thrives on a vicarious sense of flow shared by the singer and pianist,” said Nussbaum Cohen.

Added Greenberg, “Musicians and artists all around the world are using the technological means available to share their music and keep their creativity alive. As we transition to a new normal, we look forward to doing many more collaborations together from a distance and in real space.”

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."