Stephen Costello headlines “Roberto Devereux” at Carnegie Hall on June 5
It was in a supporting role at Carnegie Hall with Eve Queler and the Opera Orchestra of New York that Stephen Costellofirst launched his professional career. Now the Tucker Award-winning tenor makes a hero’s return, rejoining the same forces at the storied New York venue to headline a concert performance of Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux on June 5. He then reunites with his wife, soprano Ailyn Pérez, to co-star in La traviata at San Francisco Opera (July 5–13) and sing romantic duets “From Puccini to Broadway” at Quebec’s Festival des arts de Saint-Sauveur (Aug 1), as heard on their Warner Classics label debut, Love Duets; due for release on June 3, the album has already been hailed as “a knockout” by the Philadelphia Inquirer. To conclude the summer, the tenor makes his Japanese and role debuts as Fenton in Falstaff at the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto (Aug 20–26).
In the title role of Roberto Devereux at Carnegie Hall
Costello gave his first appearances in the title role of Roberto Devereux, the final installment of Donizetti’s Tudor trilogy, at the Dallas Opera, prompting Opera Warhorses to declare: “His was a vocally brilliant, smoldering performance.” Opera News proclaimed him the “star of the performance,” and continued:
“Costello…looked, acted and sang the demanding part of the headstrong Devereux with finesse. His golden voice encompassed power and sweetness, passion and control, along with an abundance of squillo – that strong, ringing timbre now seemingly so rare in tenors. Costello produced burnished sounds that were free of strain.”
Now the tenor revisits this celebrated portrayal in a concert performance at Carnegie Hall with the Opera Orchestra of New York and its founder/artistic director, Eve Queler, whose numerous honors include the NEA’s award for Lifetime Achievement in Opera.
“I started my career with Eve Queler at Carnegie Hall singing the fisherman in William Tell – I think it was 2005 – and that’s the only time thus far that I’ve sung at Carnegie Hall. Now I’m returning there with her to sing the leading role in an opera, so this is very exciting for me. Eve is a great person and a great musician. She’s very supportive, both in rehearsal and performance, and I’m very happy to be working with her again.”
Singing opposite the tenor’s Earl of Essex as Elisabetta, Queen of England, will be Italian soprano Mariella Devia, long regarded one of Italy’s greatest bel canto specialists (June 5).
With Ailyn Pérez: at San Francisco Opera, on new Love Duets album, and in concert
Heralded as “America’s fastest-rising husband-and-wife opera stars” (Associated Press), Costello and his wife, fellow Tucker Award-winner Ailyn Pérez, regularly perform together, showcasing what the New York Times describes as “palpable chemistry.” When they headlined La traviata at Cincinnati Opera, the Cincinnati Inquirer observed that “there could not have been a more convincing pair of lovers. … The chemistry between Pérez and Costello was evident from their first meeting.” As for the tenor’s own performance, the review continued:
“Costello possesses one of the most exciting tenors to be heard on Music Hall’s stage. He projected a rich Italianate timbre and effortless high notes, yet he also phrased with sensitivity. His acting was seamless from his love duets to the jealous outburst he delivered.”
After appearing this month as Alfredo and Violetta at London’s Royal Opera House (May 6 – 20), which will be streamed live for free around the world as part of BP Big Screens 2014, representing the company’s first live stream of a complete opera (May 20), Costello and Pérez look forward to reprising their signature portrayals of Verdi’s tragic leads at San Francisco Opera in a revival of John Copley’s production, with Quinn Kelsey as Germont and Nicola Luisotti (June 17 & 20) and Giuseppe Finzi(July 5–13) sharing conducting duties. The July 5 performance will be shown in a live simulcast at San Francisco’s AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, where previous opera simulcasts have drawn audiences of more than 165,000.
Costello made his San Francisco Opera debut in Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick, projecting “a sense of profound personal revelation” (Gramophone magazine) as Greenhorn, the role he himself first created, in a production that has since been televised and released on DVD. He returns to the company next spring to sing the tenor lead in another new opera – Marco Tutinof’s La Ciociara (“Two Women”) – again with Music Director Luisotti on the podium.
La traviata is one of the operas excerpted on the forthcoming release Love Duets, Costello’s first recording with his wife, alongside favorite romantic duets from Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, Verdi’s Rigoletto, Puccini’s La bohème, Gounod’s Faust, Massenet’s Manon, Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz, and the Broadway shows Carousel, Guys and Dolls, Kismet, and West Side Story.
The tenor confesses, “It’s thrilling, of course, to be having our Warner Classics debut album come out this spring, but it’s also terrifying. On a recording, your performance is etched in stone, and that’s a powerful thing to realize.” As to repertoire, he explains:
“We’re doing material we’ve sung together in public, as well as music we’ve not yet done on stage. We’ve never done an entire production of West Side Story in public, or Kismet or Guys and Dolls, and we’ve never done Manon together. We sing wonderful music from operas on this album, but we’re also thrilled to include so much musical theater, which we feel so passionately about. Here in America the musical theater tradition is an essential part of our identity. We’ve had Rodgers and Hart, and Leonard Bernstein, and so many other brilliant creators. This is our culture and it’s really great to sing this amazing music.”
Released in the UK this month, and slotted for U.S. release on June 3, the album is already generating substantial buzz. Pronounced “pretty well perfect” by Sinfini Music, London’s Sunday Times named Love Duets its “album of the week,” calling Costello and Pérez “two of the brightest upcoming stars”:
“The duet from La traviata — Un di felice — showcases Costello’s bright, Italianate lyric tenor and stylish elegance of phrasing, well matched by Pérez’s flirty Violetta. He’s a charmer as the lovelorn Nemorino in his standoff with Pérez’s teasing Adina from L’elisir d’amore. Massenet’s Manon and Des Grieux are as compelling and passionately sung as Puccini’s Mimi and Rodolfo, or Mascagni’s Suzel and Fritz in the famous Cherry Duet. Unlike most opera singers, Pérez and Costello prove just as idiomatic in selection of duets from Broadway.”
Costello and Pérez were heard live in duet at London’s Royal Albert Hall last month, when they proved themselves “opera’s hottest couple” (Sinfini Music) at a spectacular evening of music and fireworks at the “Classic FM Live” gala. Their live rendition of music from the album may also be heard in their program “From Puccini to Broadway” at Quebec’s Festival des arts de Saint-Sauveur (Aug 1), and in fall duo recitals at Washington National Opera (Sep 10) and Opera Philadelphia, where they launch the company’s 40th Anniversary Season with a special gala performance in the city where they first fell in love (Sep 12).
Japanese debut in Falstaff at Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto
Costello closes out the season in grand style, making his first Japanese appearances with his role debut as Fenton in Falstaffat the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto (Aug 20–26). A revival of David Kneuss’s hit staging – dubbed “a Falstaff you want to have a beer with” (New York Times) – the production boasts an outstanding cast, with baritone Quinn Kelsey in the title role, and mezzo Jamie Barton, the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, as Meg Page. All four performances will be led by Grammy Award-winner Fabio Luisi, Principal Conductor of the Metropolitan Opera. This marks another first, as the tenor explains:
“I sang with Maestro Luisi once at the Tucker Gala, but that was an all-too-brief experience. I came into rehearsal, said ‘Nice to meet you, Maestro,’ went through the aria, and came back to the concert! I’m so excited to be working with him this summer and to get insight into all aspects of Verdi’s Falstaff. It’s one of Verdi’s greatest works, and if it’s done right, it’s a really special experience for the musicians as well as the audience.”
Successful debuts at Washington National Opera and Houston Grand Opera, and more
These summer engagements cap a full and exciting season for the tenor. He triumphed in his Washington National Operadebut, in the role he first inaugurated for the Dallas Opera’s world-premiere presentation of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’sMoby-Dick. As the Washington Post reflected, the production benefited from its “strong casting …, notably the tenor Stephen Costello as the protagonist.” The review continued: “Costello is one of a small group of promising 30-something American tenors who have been marked as upcoming superstars.”
Costello returned to the Washington company for Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, in which his signature portrayal of Nemorino once again drew praise. The Baltimore Sun declared: “The tenor added extra fizz to this Elixir.” Broadway World admired the way he “mesmerized the audience” during the opera’s most famous aria, “Una furtiva lagrima,” of which the Baltimore Sunconsidered his to be “one of the most personal and involving accounts I’ve heard of that piece live in an opera house in many a year.” The tenor’s collaboration with his wife and co-star inspired similar accolades. “You cannot miss the chemistry between these singers,” affirmed the Baltimore Sun. “Their vibrant, nuanced acting lit up the stage all night.” As theWashington Post concluded, “Costello and Pérez were the vocal stars.”
The tenor enjoyed similar success in his Houston Grand Opera debut as the Duke in Rigoletto; the Houston Culture Map named him “the sensation of the night,” while Theater Jones reported:
“Costello [is] a lyric tenor whose career trajectory is straight up. This is not assisted by spectacular leaps, but by inexorability advanced by delivering one solid performance after another. … He is one of the best lyric tenors in the business.”
Such success has generated media interest too, and the past season has seen Costello and his wife spotlighted by NPR, in a special “Classical Couples” Valentine’s Day piece, and by the Wall Street Journal, in an article titled “Two’s Company.” The tenor was also profiled by Huffington Post, which observed, “Blessed with youth (he’s 32), good looks, and shimmering talent, Costello seems well-grounded and grateful for the many opportunities rushing his way.”
Stephen Costello: upcoming engagements
May 6, 12, 17 & 20
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Verdi: La traviata (Alfredo)
New York, NY
Opera Orchestra of New York
Donizetti: Roberto Devereux (title role)
June 17 & 20; July 5, 8, 11 & 13
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Opera
Verdi: La traviata (Alfredo)
Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur
De Puccini à Broadway (with Ailyn Pérez)
Aug 20, 22, 24 & 26
Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto
Verdi: Falstaff (Fenton)