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Tucker Award-Winner Stephen Costello Makes Austin Opera Debut This Saturday Headlining Romeo & Juliet (Jan 24–Feb 1)

“Stephen Costello has the kind of voice that sets the audience – even at a dress rehearsal – atwitter.”  – Wall Street Journal

Stephen Costello scored a knockout in the title role of Romeo et Juliette at San Diego Opera five years ago. Now the Tucker Award-winner makes his Austin Opera house debut starting this Saturday with a reprise of his “electrifying” portrayal (San Diego News Network) in the same Doug Scholz-Carlson production of Gounod’s Shakespearean masterpiece. Austin’s three-performance run also stars Canadian soprano Joyce El-Khoury as Juliette and bass Peter Volpe as Friar Laurence, with Austin’s Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Richard Buckley on the podium (Jan 24 & 29; Feb 1).

As Costello comments,

“Having any chance to sing Romeo is wonderful. This is a terrific role! The music feels just great in my voice, but I love the acting that I get to do with it. Joe Specter, Austin Opera’s General Director, and I went to school together at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts and we are close friends. I’m so happy that he’s become so successful with the company, and it’s a pleasure watching him take such great care of the singers. The production we are doing was one I originally did at San Diego Opera. It’s a beautiful, traditional production, and conductor Richard Buckley is doing a great job with the orchestra bringing this marvelous score to life. (My costume had to be taken in a bit, so it’s also nice to know that I’ve lost a little weight!)”

The tenor’s previous accounts of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lover have already caused a sensation. At the Moscow State Philharmonic Society, his performance prompted the Financial Times to declare him the “possessor of strong and flexible lyrical voice and a musician with a refined taste and temperament,” in a review that went on to predict: “If we count off our fingers recalling the highlights of the season, this performance will surely be in the first five.” And at San Diego Opera, Costello’s Roméo drew raves. San Diego Arts marveled:

To describe the tall, broad-shouldered Costello as dashing is like calling Bill Gates well-off. And when Costello holds his gorgeous high notes just a few beats longer without the slightest sense of strain – now that is why folks come to the opera! His eager, athletic singing in the balcony scene – not to mention his erotic edge in the nuptial duet rolling about Juliet’s curtained four-poster – combined with his idiomatic command of the French operatic style make me doubt there is another tenor singing today better suited to this role.”

Opera magazine agreed:

“Whether climbing Juliet’s balcony, or prolonging high notes with ‘listen-to-what-I-can-do’ brio, the leggiero tenor was a compelling Romeo. His ardor was unmistakable, his tone-production unbreakable. … Costello made the phrasing in ‘Ah! Lève-toi soleil’ as sensual as a caress.”

And according to the San Diego News Network:

When he is onstage, it is difficult to look at anyone else. Costello as Romeo is electrifying. He is tall, handsome, and young, believably portraying a teenager who could fall hopelessly in love after one brief meeting and willingly die for that love. Costello’s voice is passionate and powerful, but with a quality of impetuosity and innocence that precisely suits the role. His second-act aria below Juliet’s window – ‘Ah! Lève-toi soleil’ – showcases his gorgeous vocal quality – but then, so does every note he sings.

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After his Texan engagement, Costello looks forward to a second winter house debut, this time at the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa, Italy, where he sings Edgardo in a new treatment of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor from director Dario Argento. This production features coloratura soprano Desirée Rancatore in the title role, baritone Stefano Antonucci as Enrico, and Giampaolo Maria Bisanti leading from the pit (Feb 21 & 27; March 1). It was as Edgardo that the tenor brought down the house in David Alden’s groundbreaking production of the opera at the Canadian Opera Company two years ago, when critics were unanimous. “Costello was strong, earnest and vocally dazzling as lover Edgardo,” observed Musical Toronto. The Globe and Mail admired his “sweet, focused sound,” the Star pronounced his performance “masterful,” and Stage-Door proclaimed him “an ideal Edgardo, … dashing in appearance” and blessed with “a glorious Italianate voice that throbs with passion.”

Further details of Stephen Costello’s upcoming engagements follow, and more information is available at the websites listed below.


Stephen Costello: upcoming engagements

Jan 24, 29; Feb 1
Austin, TX
Austin Opera (debut)
Gounod: Romeo & Juliet (Romeo)

Feb 21, 27; March 1
Genoa, Italy
Teatro Carlo Felice (debut)
Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor (Edgardo)

March 12, 15, 18, 21
Vienna, Austria
Vienna State Opera
Verdi: La traviata (Alfredo)

April 24, 27, 30; May 7
New York, NY
Metropolitan Opera
Lehár: The Merry Widow (Camille)

June 13, 19, 23, 28, 30
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Opera
Marco Tutino: Two Women (“La Ciociara”) (Michele) (world premiere)
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© 21C Media Group, January 2015

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