|Catching Up with Stephen Costello|
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By Suzanne Calvin
Months before the curtain rose on the 2008-2009 Season, we seized our chance to sit down with tenor Stephen Costello, whose meteoric career has been the talk of the opera world. Hereís what he had to say.
Suzanne Calvin: How surreal has this past year been for you? Youíve been on stage at the Metropolitan Opera, one of the youngest principals ever to debut at the Met. You stood onstage at The Dallas Operaís 50th Anniversary Gala with Renťe Fleming. Is there a surreal quality to everything thatís been going on?
Stephen Costello: Yeah, itís been a lot of fun. Itís been exciting. And itís, you know, one great thing after another! Itís been a lot of funóand the best thing about it is that here in Dallas and at the Met I worked with people I really respected and admired.
Calvin: What do you now look for in a role? Because everybodyís falling all over themselves to try get you to sing with their company and you can pick-and-choose. What are you looking for?
Costello: Iím looking mostly for bel canto roles; things that are going to help my voice progress, to fill out and grow. I donít want to do anything that is too big, too soon. Iím really looking for artistic productions with strong cast members and a great musical staff. Dallas has been wonderful about that. Iíve done Maria Stuarda here, which is great. I didnít expect to do it, so, it was even more of a treat to work with the singers and meet Maestro (Graeme) Jenkins.
Afterwards, there was (the role of) Camille and The Merry Widow and that was the first time I had ever done thatómy first operetta ever. So, that was a lot of fun. Iíll be back here to do Roberto Devereux, which is the second part of the Tudor trilogy. Itís really excitingóa role that isnít often done anymore. I mean, how many singers have portrayed Leicester in Maria Stuardaóhow many people get the chance to sing the part of Roberto Devereux?
Calvin: How will your experience in Maria Stuarda affect the way you approach Roberto Devereux?
Costello: Thereís a lot of research that goes into these roles, a lot of background, and a lot of story, because you really have to get the relationships between the characters. And I wasnít prepared for that with Maria Stuarda because, like I said, I got the score a week and a half before. You know what happened; I came at the last minute. So, when I got here, it was a little crazy. I had just learned the music and Maestro Jenkins hands me about five different titles and says, ďNow read this book and read this book and read this book and Iíll see you in rehearsal tomorrow.Ē It was just a lot of background work.
Calvin: And how was your operetta experience? Would you like to do more of it?
Costello: I would and Iím doing The Merry Widow later on. I have a couple scheduled. I really enjoyed our cast: Ruth Ann Swenson and Rod Gilfry and Andrew Shoreóit was really just a great experience. Itís very rare for an American to perform an opera in their native language. It frees you to spend all your time on characterization and interpreting the music. The music is gorgeous, really gorgeous. Of course, Camille had some of the best music in the opera, which is even better! Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I canít wait to do it again.
Calvin: What else are you looking forward to on your immediate horizon? Say, over the next year or so?
Costello: Well, I have some things that Iíve been working on that I canít really talk about yet. Iím looking forward to those. And I have some debuts in some houses that Iím really looking forward to. But what Iím most looking forward to is getting married in September (2008) to my fiancťe, Eileen Perez, who is also an opera singer.
Costello: Thank you so much. Iím looking forward to that and, of course, going back to work with Maestro Levine at the Met and working with Maestro Muti in Salzburg over the summer.
Calvin: There will be a lot of heart-broken females on and off-stage.
Costello: (laughs) You know, itís part of the job.
Calvin: (laughs) We sincerely hope not! You started out as a trumpet player and thought that your musical aspirations were going to take you in that direction. Do you see opera performance as your choice for a lifelong career or would you like to eventually move into some other area or music?
Costello: You know, people often wonder. They say, ďWell, what would you like to do?Ē And I do I want to make opera my lifelong career. You know, people think about teaching too, but Iím going to leave that to the people who are really good at it because I have a great teacher, Bill Schuman, who is both an incredible teacher and incredible person. He has great success with his students because he knows what heís doing. I know what Iím doing with my voice, but I couldnít explain it the way he does to other singers. I couldnít do that without being afraid of ruining someone elseís chances. Iíve always said: if you like the way somebody sings, find their teacher and study with them.
Calvin: Thatís a nice plug for teachers. Will your role in Roberto Devereux mark the first time that youíve lost your head on stage?
Costello: Yeah! Maria Stuarda lost her head in the last opera, so, Iím looking forward to it.