Stephen Costello, having “risen rapidly to claim a place among the world’s best tenors” (Daily Express, UK), steps up his European presence in the coming season. September sees the Tucker Award-winning tenor make his Paris Opera debut with his first German-language account of Camille in The Merry Widow. He revisits a pair of signature roles, singing Rodolfo in La bohème both for his Dresden Opera debut and his return to the Teatro Real Madrid, and the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto at the Dresden Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, and – marking his sole American appearance of 2017-18 – at the Canadian Opera Company. Before drawing the season to a close with his house and role debuts as Fernand in a new production of La favorite at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, Costello returns to Germany to make his Munich Philharmonic debut with his first performances of Dvořák’s Stabat Mater. Highlighted by so many notable firsts, this extraordinary lineup is only fitting for “the all-American tenor” who is, as Opera News notes, now “at the top of his game.”
Paris Opera debut in The Merry Widow (Sep 9–Oct 21)
It was with Lehár’s Camille that, while still a graduate student, Costello made his Dallas Opera debut. Since then, he has reprised the role multiple times, most recently for his “admirable Lyric debut” (Chicago Classical Review) and alongside Susan Graham at the Metropolitan Opera, where he “sang with big, full tone and a firm sense of the swooping, darting style of Lehár” (New York Observer). Now he returns to the part for his first appearances not only at the Paris Opera, but in the French capital itself. With Véronique Gens in the title role, Valentina Naforniţă as Valencienne, Thomas Hampson as Graf Danilo Danilowitsch, and Jakub Hrůša and Marius Stieghorst taking turns on the podium in Jorge Lavelli’s production, Costello gives 15 performances as Camille, which he sings for the first time in the original German. He explains:
“I’m very excited to start my season in Paris singing Camille in The Merry Widow. As an opera singer, it’s the closest I’ll personally get to singing in the musical theater style. It incorporates acting, it incorporates dancing, it incorporates singing and spoken dialogue, and interactions with many different characters, and it’s also a funny piece. I’ve always sung it in English before, so to sing it in its native language is a true challenge for me – this will be my first German role! And it’s also my debut in Paris. I’ve only ever been in the city for about 24 hours before, so it’ll be really incredible to spend some time there.”
Dresden Opera debut (Oct 28–Nov 4) & return to Madrid (Dec 11–Jan 7) in La bohème
Costello’s second house debut of the season follows hard on the heels of the first, when he gives his first appearances at Germany’s Dresden Opera as the male lead in La bohème, opposite the Mimìs of Maija Kovaļevska (Oct 28; Nov 4) and Hrachuhí Bassénz (Oct 30) in Christine Mielitz’s staging, with Giampaolo Bisanti leading from the pit. He also revisits his portrayal of Rodolfo this winter at Spain’s Teatro Real Madrid, where he partners Anita Hartig in Richard Jones’s production of the opera, under the leadership of Paolo Carignani.
Although it has been several years since he’s appeared in the role, Puccini’s hero has long been a staple of the tenor’s repertoire, being the vehicle for previous German debuts at both the Berlin and Bavarian State Operas, as well as for engagements at the Vienna State Opera, where his performance was “vocally and dramatically enchanting” (Der Standard); at the Los Angeles Opera, where he proved “a spectacular Rodolfo” (Music and Vision); and at Cincinnati Opera, where his “fresh, Italianate tenor was consistently a joy to hear. … He projected ringing timbre and sweet intensity.” Costello himself confesses: “It’s been a lucky role for me.”
Dresden (March 30–June 8), Berlin (May 3–11) & Toronto (Jan 20–Feb 21) in Rigoletto
Verdi’s Duke of Mantua is another of the parts on which Costello has most decisively made his mark. In Rigoletto at Houston Grand Opera, his Duke was hailed as “the sensation of the night” (Houston Chronicle), prompting Theater Jones to name him “one of the best lyric tenors in the business.” Similarly, in the Metropolitan Opera’s groundbreaking Vegas staging of the opera, which recast the role as a Sinatra figure, the New York Times praised Costello’s “bright tenor that … was perfectly suited to [the] character,” while the New York Classical Review – calling the production “one of the great successes of the Peter Gelb era” – observed:
“The cast in this year’s production adds to [director Michael] Mayer’s concept, especially tenor Stephen Costello as the Duke. 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.”
This season, the Duke takes Costello back to Dresden Opera, for appearances in Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s treatment of the opera; the Deutsche Oper Berlin, for performances alongside the Rigoletto of Simon Keenlyside; and Toronto’s Canadian Opera Company, for a New Year run in Christopher Alden’s production. As the tenor says:
“To do a role consecutively throughout a season is a great opportunity, because I can shape it and explore it in many different ways, and each production will be slightly different.”
House and role debuts in La favorite in Barcelona (July 10–24)
For his final operatic engagement of the season, Costello makes his house and role debuts as Fernand in Donizetti’s La favorite at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, in a new production by the great Argentinean-born actor-director Ariel García Valdés (July 10–24). The conductor will be Patrick Summers, with whom the tenor has collaborated many times over the course of his career, most notably on the Dallas Opera’s world premiere production of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s Moby-Dick, in which he created the starring role of Greenhorn (Ishmael).
Although new to Fernand, the tenor is no stranger to Donizetti. Recent seasons have seen him sing Lord Percy to Anna Netrebko’s Anna Bolena in the Met’s premiere production of the opera, and Edgardo in new stagings of Lucia di Lammermoor at the Royal Opera House and Canadian Opera Company, while his Nemorino has been justly celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic. In L’elisir d’amore at Washington National Opera, it was he who was greeted with “the warmest applause of the night” (Washington Post), while at Glyndebourne, the Arts Desk called his portrayal “a revelation,” and The Times of London stated simply: “The best voice on stage belongs to Stephen Costello.”
Munich Philharmonic debut in Dvořák’s Stabat Mater (April 12–15)
Another first follows when Costello completes his season in concert, making his Munich Philharmonic debut with his first performances of Dvořák’s Stabat Mater, under the direction of the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Manfred Honeck, with whom he has never worked before. He says:
“It’s going to be a really great experience working with such an amazing orchestra, and I just can’t wait to tackle this piece for the first time with them. It doesn’t get much better than this!”
2016-17 season highlights
Last season saw Costello headline back-to-back productions at both the Met, where he made his house title role debut in Bartlett Sher’s hit staging of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette and revisited his star turn as the Duke of Mantua in Michael Mayer’s Vegas setting of Rigoletto; and the Dallas Opera, where he made his role debut as Lensky in the company’s season-opening production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and reprised his Greenhorn in Moby-Dick. He also made his house role debut as Alfredo in Verdi’s La traviata at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre and sang the Duke of Mantua for a special televised, outdoor performance of Rigoletto in Hannover. In concert, he gave his first appearances with the Boston Symphony and Andris Nelsons alongside Renée Fleming in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, besides headlining the opening night of Armenia’s Yerevan International Music Festival, and joining the Orchestre National de Lille for Verdi’s Requiem at Villeneuve’s Stade Pierre-Mauroy. He also headed into the studio to record his first solo album, Bel Canto Arias, under the baton of Constantine Orbelian, for release on the Delos label.