"WEST EDGE OPERA MAKES THE CASE FOR A NEARLY FORGOTTEN MASTERPIECE"
-Steven Winn, San Francisco Classical Voice, 2022
"[Ariane is] accompanied by her seemingly dowdy Nurse (contralto Sara Couden in a vital, fearless performance)... [Couden, as well as Renee Rapier as Ariane] sing with splendid, shining authority, their voices and personalities set off in vaulting, dramatically gratifying ways."
"Ariane deputizes the Nurse to open one room after another... Over bright splashes and shimmers of orchestral color, the Nurse experiences each bejeweled chamber as a new erotic thrill, shedding layers of her clothing as she does."
"WEST EDGE OPERA EXCAVATES A THRILLINGLY UNFAMILIAR MASTERPIECE TO OPEN ITS SEASON"
-Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, 2022
"What was undeniable...was the expressive potency of Sunday's performance... as [Ariane's] nurse, contralto Sara Couden--hitherto known to Bay Areal audiences only in Baroque repertoire--turned out to be an equally majestic interpreter of French Impressionism."
"ARIANE & BLUEBEARD"
-Victor Cordell, Berkshirefinearts.com, 2022
"...major, flawless, and low range contribution from Nurse, sung by contralto Sara Couden. [Rapier, Philip Skinner as Bluebeard, and Couden] are magnificent, and similar attributes can be applied to all three. How many times can you say deep, warm, resonant, powerful voice?"
"ARIANE & BLUEBEARD: A HARMONIC AND OPULENT OPERA--AT WEST EDGE"
-Jennifer Ann Charron, Theatrius.com, 2022
"Ariane, a powerful woman of agency, and her nurse (deeply soulful contralto Sara Couden) go straight to the doors to see what's up. When six doors open to piles of jewels, from pearls to rubies, Couden displays her formidable acting chops in a fabulous scene where she basks in the jewels."
"INSERIES' A FAIRY QUEEN: THRICE CHARMED BY MAGIC"
"Not only must [the performers] sing baroque well, but they must also recite Shakespeare well. The cast...was marvelous in both regards. Mr. Nelson was able to anchor the performance by bringing back three singers from the podcast--soprano Lucy Page as Titania, countertenor Benjamin Williamson as Oberon, and mezzo-soprano Sara Couden as a fairy/Peter Quince. All three were extraordinary. ... Mr. Williamson and Ms. Couden seemed like naturals for their roles."
"MAY FESTIVAL OPENS SEASON WITH EMOTIONAL EVENING OF SMALLER WORKS"
-Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati Business Courier, 2021
"[Julia] Perry's setting [of the Stabat Mater] was extraordinary, with tone painting in the orchestra that was descriptive of pain, anger and the weeping mother. ... For the contralto soloist, Sara Couden, it was a powerful work with a craggy vocal line that wept, mourned, leaped, and cried out to the heavens. In her festival debut, Couden could not have been a better champion for this music. Her performance was both mesmerizing and emotional."
“PHILADELPHIA ORCHESTRA PERFORMS RARE RAVEL OPERATIC GEM”
-Peter Dobrin, Philadelphia Enquirer, 2020
“…a magnificent deep-well of a mezzo sound…”
“HALLOWEEN IN FEBRUARY: THE PHILADELPHIA ORCHESTRA CONJURES SORCERERS AND SPELLS”
-Cameron Kelsall, 2020
“[C]ontralto Sara Couden brought a recitalist’s feeling for text in several roles, including the Child’s worried Mama.”
“PHILHARMONIA’S JUDAS MACCABAEUS LOOKS BEYOND THE TITULAR HERO”
-Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, 2019
“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.”
“A RAVISHINGLY FINE JUDAS MACCABAEUS MAKES ITS MARK WITH THE PHILHARMONIA BAROQUE ORCHESTRA AND CHORALE IN SAN FRANCISCO”
“Couden was a huge sensation in everything she delivered - a model performance leaving you in no doubt her star had ascended. The strength of Act Two’s ‘So rapid thy course is’ seemingly heralded a grand future for her nameless Israelitish Man, turning the stave into an outstanding elastic beauty as she leapt from chest to head voice in what would make a coveted vocal lesson. Couden’s whopping cavernous lows came with unshowy pride and the audience couldn’t hold back the applause! Later, opening Act Three with ‘Father of Heav’n!’ and imploring God’s blessing on festivities, Couden began with angelic strains before building up a masterpiece of succulent, mobilising voice.”
“JUDAS MACCABAEUS REIGNS VICTORIOUS WITH PHILHARMONIA BAROQUE ORCHESTRA”
-Michael Zweiback, San Francisco Classical Voice, 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.”
-Phillip Campbell, Bay Area Reporter, 2019
“[Robin Johannsen’s] ‘Israelitish Woman’ paired well with mezzo-soprano/contralto Sara Couden's memorable ‘Israelitish Man.’ Appreciatively known throughout the Bay Area, Couden's striking voice and impressive stage presence deserve wide currency. There is a confidence and compelling appeal to her rich tone. Her air ‘Father of Heav'n’ at the top of Act III earned special praise.”
“BAY AREA MUSIC, THE YEAR IN REVIEW”
-Phillip Campbell, Bay Area Reporter, 2019
“McGegan conducted lush performances of Handel's oratorio "Judas Maccabaeus" in December with…pitch-perfect contributions from soloists, including mezzo-soprano/contralto Sara Couden as a memorable "Israelitish Man." Her outstanding voice and presence added vibrant life to a neglected masterpiece.”
“GREAT SINGING MAKES FOR A MEMORABLE ERMELINDA”
-Steven Winn, San Francisco Classical Voice, 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.
Ormondo’s lovestruck lament at the darkest hour was the emotional peak. Here, with an aching, spare simplicity that brought Handel to mind, Couden sent Ermelinda aloft. “What’s to be done?” she sang in a despair that faded to a near-breathless pianissimo. The question felt existential.
Moments like these were infrequent in Freschi’s score, which is heavy on recitative and has only a few brief duets. Couden made the very most of her opportunities. No matter how silly the story became, she made the musical values come across authentically and persuasively.”
“ARS MINERVA REVIVES AN UNKNOWN BAROQUE OPERA WITH BEAUTY AND STYLE”
-Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, 2019
“…Ermelinda has already attracted a suitor in the person of the Prince of Phoenicia (the gloriously rich-toned contralto Sara Couden).”
“PERFORMANCE REVIEW: DOMENICO FRESCHI—ERMELINDA”
-Joseph Newsome, Voix des Arts, 2019
“Rarer amongst today’s singers than a capable Brünnhilde and a fully-qualified Siegfried is a true contralto. Rarer still are productions in which contraltos are not compelled to portray mothers, witches, harlots, or crones. Ars Minerva had in Sara Couden a genuine contralto with a voice of superb quality, and she had in the rôle of the Phoenician prince Ormondo, disguised as the simple but sincere Clorindo in order to be near to his beloved Ermelinda, a part in which her artistry shone. Hurling herself into the drama, Couden voiced ‘Bella madre di pensieri’ and ‘Con grazie si cortesi’ powerfully, the resonance of her lower register evincing Ormondo’s nobility. Musically and emotionally, the contralto’s singing of ‘Pupillette s’io vi miro, mi sforzate ad adorar’ was arresting, her performance achieving a depth of feeling that transformed the opera’s plot from harmless farce to romance on the brink of tragedy. The comedic implications of the contrast with her singing of ‘T’adoro sì, ma nò, pensier cangiando io vò’ therefore could not have been more significant: in an environment in which honesty was folly, feigned madness was a convenient refuge for this cunning prince.
Couden’s technical prowess furnished a myriad of memorable passages, one of the most exhilarating of which was ‘Non bastava, o Ciel, così tormi al cor la libertà,’ but a potent feature of her interpretation of Ormondo’s music was her uncanny ability to reveal the psychological motivations of coloratura. With her shrewd acting, she differentiated the temperamental contours of ‘Fà quanto sai, Fortuna, nò, non lascierò d’amar’ and ‘Bella, la libertà che doni a questo piè,’ but it was again her voice that stunned in ‘Stelle, contro di me tanto rigor perche si fieri,’ her sumptuous tone enveloping the music in a cloak of vocal velvet. The sincerity of Couden’s statement of ‘Per tè vivo, e a me son morto’ was heartbreaking, and her poignant enunciation of ‘Che mai si può far’ was profoundly touching, Ormondo’s despair expressed with riveting simplicity. Significantly, it is not by Ermelinda but by Ormondo that the opera’s final aria is sung, and Couden voiced ‘Gioje care, volatemi in petto’ mirthfully, rejoicing in the triumph of the prince’s fidelity. Couden’s was an unforgettable performance in which the singer’s formidable gifts were wholly devoted to serving the composer.”
“BWV REVIEW: ERMELINDA AT THE ODC THEATER”
-Maria Nockin, Broadway World, 2019
“…huge range and organ-like 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.”
“A COMIC CHARMER IN A MODERN WORLD PREMIER OF A BAROQUE RARITY ARRIVES IN LIVELY FLAMBOYANT STYLE FROM SAN FRANCISCO’S ARS MINERVA”
“Nudging ahead as most impressive, gloriously sonorous contralto Sara Couden’s Ormondo is an endearing sort - a prince doing his utmost to act like a bumpkin - and she interprets his part with hugely textured vocal appeal, one as rich as plum pudding, with lashings of comic aplomb to go with it.”
“FARCE AT ITS FINEST FROM ARS MINERVA”
-Stephen Smoliar, The Rehearsal Studio, 2019
“[Nikola] Printz, Couden, and [Kindra] Scharich consistently met the elaborate physical demands of Ricci’s staging; and the resulting narrative clicked along at an almost breakneck pace. (Couden was particularly adept in mastering facial expressions to account for the many dispositions of the Ormondo/Clorindo character.)”
-Lisa Hirsch, Iron Tongue of Midnight, 2019
“My personal rising stars: …Sara Couden, who was hilarious in Ermelinda and sang fabulously. … She was a real wow in every way.”
“THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE CHARMS AT WINTER OPERA”
-Steve Callahan, Broadway World, 2019
“The very strong cast includes two especially remarkable performances. Mabel, the daughter who captures young Frederic's heart, is splendidly sung by Chelsea Friedlander… 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.”
“AN ENJOYABLE EVENING WITH PIRATES AT WINTER OPERA”
-Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2019
“The production had a real contralto in Sara Couden’s Ruth, the piratical maid-of-all-work. Couden has a strong presence and a great sense of comic timing…”
“FEMINIST UPDATING OF STRADELLA’S SUSANNA LENDS CONTEMPORARY RESONANCE”
-Charles T. Downey, Washington Classical Review, 2019
“Created for a castrato, the role is given to the extraordinary contralto Sara Couden, who displayed a brazen chest voice and buttery legato phrasing in the role, as well as impressive vocal agility.”
“NORMAN BATES, CLARENCE THOMAS AND BRETT KAVANAUGH COME TO MIND IN BAROQUE OPERA”
-Susan Hall, Concertonet.com
“The entire cast is able to create a variety of emotions inflecting essentially sweet music with lust, desire, fear, and a panoply of subtler emotions. Only the bracket to the show, Sara Couden, a superb contralto, can suggest in the depths of her lush chest voice, the cruelty that is to come for Susanna, as ‘the scholar’ discusses the sexual abuse of woman over the ages. She is often ominous, suggesting that all is not right and never has been.”
“TWO OPERA COMPANIES ANIMATE A 17TH-CENTURY WORK TO CONFRONT #MeToo HEAD-ON”
-Anne Midgette, Washington Post, 2019
“After the spirited overture…a lecturer took the stage while the supertitles announced “Our Bodies, Our Stories: Reclaiming the Narrative for Feminism,” by Dr. Beatrice Armstrong. Dr. Armstrong made the normal introductory requests to turn off cellphones and then launched into her talk — singing in a strong, dark contralto. Her real name is Sara Couden, and she was taking the role of the narrator, Testo, using her pointer to move the figures from one stylized tableau to another as she explained what was happening.
“BLOODHOOF: AN ICELANDIC FABLE RECONSIDERED IN NEW YORK”
-Kurt Gottschalk, Bachtrack, 2019
“The tragic heroine was given voice in the MATA production by Sara Couden, a contralto with a rich and resonant voice befitting the giantess.”
“…Through the efforts of Kristný and Haraldsdóttir, and with Couden’s emotive strength…an 800-year-old injustice, however fictional, was finally tried and its victim given voice.”
“SARA COUDEN AS DEJANIRA”
-Verdi Prati, 2018
“She was phenomenal in this role. … Her connection with the audience last Friday 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.) My observation in the past was that she seemed more at home in comedy than in the more serious repertoire, but having seen her last week as Dejanira—a role that traverses emotions from anxiety to mourning, envy and anger to guilt—I would now say there is 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.”
“MUSIC@MENLO’S LEIPZIG: WHAT A DIFFERENCE A CENTURY MAKES”
-David Bratman, San Francisco Classical Voice, 2018
“For charm and a sense of goofiness welcome in Menlo’s solemn precincts, nothing could outdo contralto Sara Couden’s performance of the fourth work on the program, Telemann’s Canary Cantata. Secular cantatas on unlikely subjects were a Baroque specialty; Bach’s Coffee Cantata is the most famous. This one is a funerary lament for a dead pet canary. Telemann pours all the pathos of early Italian tragic opera into his music; this is transmuted to 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.”
“SANTA CRUZ SYMPHONY: RESURRECTION”
-Josef Sekon, Peninsula Reviews, 2018
“Contralto Sara Couden, in lustrous voice, was fantastic in the setting of ‘Urlicht’…”
“MOZART CLARINET CONCERTO & SELECTIONS FROM THE MAGIC FLUTE”
-Tony Frankel, Stage and Screen, 2017
“…positively projecting those resounding low notes to the rafters…”
“AT THE MET: A SPLENDID STAR TURN FOR AILYN PEREZ AS THAIS”
-John Yohalem, Musical America, 2017
“In the last act, [Sara Couden] made everyone in the theater sit up 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!”
“HOT SAINT, HOLY SINNER—MASSENET’S THAIS AT THE MET”
-Charles Geyer, La Scena Musicale, 2017
“Contralto Sara Couden gives a warm and winning turn as the Abbess Albine who welcomes Thaïs to the cloister and later prepares her for eternity.”
“JOHN COX’S PRODUCTION OF MASSENET’S THAIS”
-David M. Rice, Classical Source, 2017
“ Other standouts include…Sara Couden.”
“REVIEW: BELLINI’S LA SONNAMBULA, SUNG BY PROMISING YOUNG VOICES”
-Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, 2016
“Sara Couden’s rich mezzo-soprano and calm demeanor were ideal for Teresa, Amina’s foster mother.”
-Edmond Johanson, Opera News, 2013
‘Of the supporting roles, …Sara Couden, in the often unremarked role of Third Lady, offered a powerful contralto that provided an unusually rich and resonant foundation for the trio of harmonizing women. “