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Stephen Costello Looks Forward to Summer of Debuts in Japan, Austria and Italy

On the heels of his first solo CD release last fall and back-to-back Verdi productions this spring at the Metropolitan Opera, Tucker Award-winner Stephen Costello – “the best American operatic tenor the world has right now” (Toronto Star) – looks forward to a summer of debuts. In June he sings his first opera in Japan, making a role debut as Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (June 1-9). A pair of signature roles fill out the remainder of the summer: the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto serves as the vehicle for his Bregenz Festival debut in Austria (July 17-Aug 17), and he sings Alfredo in La traviata for his debut in Italy’s Arena di Verona Opera Festival, with staging and a new stage design by Franco Zeffirelli (Aug 22-Sep 5).

Taking on a new Puccini role has a particular significance for Costello. As he explains:

“I made my professional debut singing a Puccini role, and am excited to have my role debut as Pinkerton mark the occasion of my first opera performances in Japan. After Madama Butterfly in Tokyo, I head to Bregenz, Austria for Rigoletto and then Verona, Italy for La traviata. It will be a long and fun summer and I’m thrilled that my wife, Yoon, and dog, Pebbles, will thankfully join me all summer.”

Leading the Puccini in Japan is Italian conductor Donato Renzetti, Principal Conductor of Pesaro’s Filarmonica Gioachino Rossini. Japanese soprano Yasko Sato sings the title role, and the direction by Tamiya Kuriyama focuses on the social background of the story, especially Japan’s relationship with America at the time. It will be performed at Tokyo’s New National Theatre.

An international cast joins Costello for his debut at the Bregenz Festival as the Duke in Verdi’s Rigoletto. The production is helmed by film and stage director and designer Philipp Stölzl, who made his name directing music videos and movies including North Face and The Physician. When Costello starred as a Sinatra-style Duke in Michael Mayer’s Vegas-themed Rigoletto at the Met, he was praised by the New York Times for his “bright tenor that … was perfectly suited to [the] character,” and the New York Classical Review observed:

“Costello is a fine Verdian tenor, with an ideal range and a rounded, colorful sound. … [He] sang the character, who must be attractive and repellent at the same time, beautifully.”

Winding up the summer with a debut at the Arena di Verona Opera Festival, Costello reprises another much-lauded role in his repertoire: Alfredo in Verdi’s La traviata. The staging by Franco Zeffirelli features the celebrated nonagenarian director’s own new stage design, reflecting, as the festival publicity puts it, “the ultimate synthesis of his aesthetic thoughts on Traviata.” Costello has sung Alfredo in opera houses around the world, including in the first-ever livestream of a complete opera from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 2014, and he performed the same role in one of his two Met appearances this past spring.

These summer debuts come on the heels of Costello’s solo album debut, A Te, O Cara, a collection of bel canto arias released this past season. Recorded for Delos with Grammy-nominated conductor Constantine Orbelian leading Lithuania’s Kaunas City Symphony, this was named the “Best Vocal Recital Disc of 2018” by Voix des Arts, while Theater Jones called it an “auspicious and touching debut album.” Gramophone magazine declared:

Costello sounds as vocally fresh as a newcomer but with a greater understanding of text and style that puts him on new artistic ground. … What handily puts him across the finish line is the overall characterisation and larger sense of musical intent behind the vocal athleticism. And Costello’s elastic moulding of the texts and phrases … reflects his deepening artistry.”

A trailer for A Te, O Cara can be seen here.

High-resolution photos can be downloaded here.

Stephen Costello: summer engagements

June 1, 4, 7 & 9
Tokyo, Japan (operatic debut)
New National Theatre
Puccini: Madama Butterfly (Pinkerton; role debut) 

July 17 – August 17 – Specific dates to be announced
Bregenz, Austria
Bregenz Festival (debut)
Verdi: Rigoletto (Duca)

Aug 22, 30; Sep 5
Verona, Italy
Arena di Verona (debut)
Verdi: La traviata (Alfredo)

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© 21C Media Group, May 2019

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