Stephen Costello – “the best American operatic tenor the world has right now” (Toronto Star) – maintains a major presence in France this season. He makes his role debut as Dvořák’s Prince in Opéra du Rhin’s new production of Rusalka, before returning to the Paris Opera to star in a new staging of Massenet’s Manon and make his role debut as Ferrando in Così fan tutte, which marks his first professional Mozart role. He also returns to New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where he partners Diana Damrau in his house role debut as Leicester in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, to air in the Met’s Live in HD series, and rounds out his operatic season with accounts of longtime signature role Rodolfo in productions of Puccini’s La bohème at Germany’s Semperoper Dresden and Hamburg State Opera. Finally, following the success of his first solo album, a bel canto collection released last season on the Delos label, the Tucker Award-winning tenor makes his Prague debut with “Two Tenors!,” a concert of bel canto arias in the Czech capital, and headlines “An Evening of Bel Canto Arias” at Cincinnati Opera, to celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary season. As Opera News put it, “the all-American tenor” is currently “at the top of his game.”
Two years ago, when Costello made his Paris Opera debut as Camille in The Merry Widow, the tenor impressed ResMusica with his “brilliant timbre [and] flawless projection.” This season, he returns to the storied house for a pair of productions. Marking his first professional performances of a Mozart role, he makes his role debut as Ferrando in Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s choreographic take on Così fan tutte, which previously proved “the most controversial and talked-about evening of the [2016-17] Paris season” (Opera News). Antonello Manacorda conducts at the Palais Garnier (June 19–July 13).
Costello also reprises his portrayal of Des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon at Paris Opera’s Opéra Bastille, where Russian soprano Sofia Fomina joins him for a dark new treatment of the work by Vincent Huguet, with Israeli conductor Dan Ettinger on the podium (March 7–28). When the tenor sang the same role at the Dallas Opera, Opera News observed:
“From his initial appearance, … to the golden high notes of his radiant “Nous vivrons à Paris,” … Costello moved from strength to vocal strength. … The lovers’ duets in Acts I and III and the closing scene were marvels of pacing and harmonizing.”
At Strasbourg’s Opéra National du Rhin, Costello gives his first performances as the Prince in the company premiere of Rusalka, opposite South African soprano Pumeza Matshikiza, “one of today’s most exciting new operatic voices” (The Independent, UK). Best-known for the beloved first-act aria “Song to the Moon,” Dvořák’s fairytale opera will be mounted in a new production by award-winning German director Nicola Raab under the baton of Antony Hermus, first in the European capital of Strasbourg (Oct 18–26) and then in neighboring Alsatian city Mulhouse (Nov 8 & 10).
Having starred opposite Diana Damrau in the Metropolitan Opera’s hit production of La traviata, Costello reunites with the soprano at the New York house to make his company role debut as the Earl of Leicester in Sir David McVicar’s celebrated staging of Maria Stuarda (April 19–May 9). Also featuring star mezzo Jamie Barton as Elizabeth I, with Maurizio Benini leading from the pit, the production will be transmitted live to cinemas around the world in the Met’s award-winning Live in HD series. Maria Stuarda is the central opera of Donizetti’s Tudor Trilogy, to which the tenor is no stranger. Besides singing Leicester for his debut at the Dallas Opera, where he went on to become a firm house favorite, Costello previously headlined Roberto Devereux at Carnegie Hall and “won a hearty ovation” (New York Times) opposite Anna Netrebko in the Met’s company premiere of Anna Bolena.
Rounding out his operatic season, the tenor reprises La bohème’s Rodolfo in Christine Mielitz’s classic production at Semperoper Dresden (Sep 15 & 20) and in Guy Joosten’s 2017 staging at Hamburg State Opera (Jan 4–17). Puccini’s hero was the vehicle for Costello’s debuts in Dresden, at Los Angeles Opera, at both the Berlin and Bavarian State Operas, and for engagements at Cincinnati Opera and Vienna State Opera, where his performance was “vocally and dramatically enchanting” (Der Standard).
Costello originally hoped to make his Prague debut back in January 2016, when he was scheduled to perform there with sopranos Maria Agresta and Angel Blue, but found himself trapped in New York City by a snowstorm. On that occasion, Petr Nekoranec, winner of the Francesco Viñas International Competition, stepped in to replace him. Now it is alongside the same Czech tenor that Costello makes his long-postponed Prague debut with “Two Tenors!,” a concert of bel canto arias by Gounod, Bizet, Massenet, Donizetti, Cilea, Verdi, De Curtis, Cardillo and Di Capua at the Rudolfinum’s Dvořák Hall, where they will be joined by the PKF-Prague Philharmonia under Rastislav Štúr (Nov 3). To celebrate Cincinnati Opera’s 100th anniversary season, Costello also looks forward to giving a recital with pianist Anthony Manoli, in “An Evening of Bel Canto Arias” (Oct 29).
One of today’s foremost interpreters of the bel canto repertoire, last season Costello made his solo album debut with A Te, O Cara, a collection of bel canto arias by Donizetti, Bellini, and Verdi, which he dedicated to his dear friend and colleague, the late Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Recorded for Delos with Grammy-nominated conductor Constantine Orbelian leading Lithuania’s Kaunas City Symphony, the release was named the “Best Vocal Recital Disc of 2018” by Voix des Arts. Gramophone magazine affirmed: “Costello sounds as vocally fresh as a newcomer but with a greater understanding of text and style that puts him on new artistic ground.” Opera News explained:
“His voice has matured and developed with a smoother, more rounded sound. … Take, for example, the album’s opener, La fille du régiment’s ‘Ah! Mes amis.’ Costello does not reach for the aria’s notorious nine high Cs; instead, they emerge organically, ensuring a consistency of tone throughout his register. … In ‘Parmi veder le lagrime” …, Costello’s performance is supplely endearing and remarkably convincing. Edgardo’s ‘Fra poco a me ricovero,’ from Lucia di Lammermoor, is an emotional powerhouse, and Costello aptly sells the rollercoaster-ride lyrics.”
As the review concluded, “The tenor now sounds better than ever.”
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Until August 17 there is still time to see Costello’s star turn as the Duke in Verdi’s Rigoletto, which serves as the vehicle for his debut at Austria’s Bregenz Festival. Helmed by film and stage director and designer Philipp Stölzl, the production has inspired glowing praise, not least for the tenor’s performance. According to Die Deutsche Bühne, “With his sure high notes and charismatic tenor, Stephen Costello gives this unscrupulous womanizer the requisite swagger.” He “brilliantly mastered the grueling role,” agreed Der Standard. As the Wiener Zeitung writes, “Costello is a virile and vocally dashing Duke, whose singing effortlessly finds its way into women’s hearts.”
Also featuring Vladimir Stoyanov, Mélissa Petit, Miklós Sebestyén, Katrin Wundsam, the Prague Philharmonic Choir, and the Vienna Symphony under the leadership of Enrique Mazzola, the production has been filmed for broadcast on Germany’s 3SAT television station on August 10, and for subsequent DVD release on August 16; copies can be pre-ordered here.