The fast-rising young tenor Stephen Costello has firmly established himself as one of the current generation’s most impressive artists. He came to national attention in 2007 when, at age 26, he debuted at the Met’s season-opening night and was quickly invited to appear again that same season. In 2009, Costello won the prestigious Richard Tucker Award. He subsequently made his debuts at a number of the world’s most important opera houses and music festivals, including London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Salzburg Festival, and the Vienna State Opera. In 2010 he inaugurated the role of Greenhorn in the Dallas Opera’s acclaimed world-premiere production of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s Moby Dick.
His performances as Cassio in Verdi’s Otello, conducted by Riccardo Muti at the Salzburg Festival, were released on DVD in 2010 (Major/Naxos), and his Covent Garden debut in Linda di Chamounix was released on CD in March 2011 (Opera Rara).
Next week Stephen Costello will headline Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor at the Canadian Opera Company as Edgardo opposite soprano Anna Christy in a revival of David Alden’s ground-breaking English National Opera production.
It was in Lucia that the tenor made his house debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera back in 2007, when his portrayal of Arturo so impressed Met Music Director James Levine that the young tenor found himself undertaking the opera’s male lead that same season. As Parterre.com reports, thanks to his “youth, sweet timbre, precocious poise, and emotional involvement” as Edgardo, it was Costello who “got the biggest ovation at the end” of the night.
Now the Richard Tucker Award-winner looks forward to reprising the role for all nine of the Canadian Opera Company’s upcoming performances between April 17 and May 24.
I ask Stephen Costello ten questions: five about himself and five more about his portrayal of Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor.
1) Are you more like your father or your mother?
I am not really sure. I am sort of a mix of both I think. I can’t complain I had great parents growing up.
Sure like all families we have had fights and I am sure I have said terrible things at one point, but I love them both very much. They have taught me to be polite and respectful, and never forget who you are and where you have come from. That also keeps me grounded as a person.
2) What is the best thing or worst thing about being a singer?
There are so many great things about being a singer. You get to travel all over the world, work with amazing artists and musicians. You also get to bring music and joy to audiences and people who really need to be entertained and forget about life for a while. These are the things that keep us in the business.
The worst part about being a singer is not seeing family and friends. I spend weeks away from my wife at a time and it is terrible. I have also missed watching my nephew Sean and Godson Patrick grow up. I have missed birthdays and Christmases. In this business you have to be willing to make sacrifices. That is the worst part of being a singer. A lot of people will say rejection, I think that makes you stronger. It is not seeing the ones we love, that’s what gets me.
3) Who do you like to listen to or watch?
I listen to everything and everyone. The more you listen to, the more ideas are in your head. I can watch YouTube for hours. I feel it is important to watch the stars of the past and the stars of today and see what makes them famous or special. I think we learn more as a singer watching others. I have been on a Bruno Mars kick for a while. I think he is so talented. I also love watching movies. Anything with Jimmy Stewart, Tom Hanks, or Johnny Depp, I am There. Would love to meet these guys and pick their brains.
[Is it my imagination or does Stephen Costello resemble the young Tom Hanks? see for yourself]
4) What ability or skill do you wish you had, that you don’t have?
I wish I had the ability to make a decision. I can make decisions on work, but nothing else. It is awful. I will end up trying to decide on lunch or dinner, and then it is too late. I also wish I could fly, but then again who doesn’t.
5) When you’re just relaxing and not working what is your favourite thing to do?
Hangout with friends and go to the movies. If I am not doing that I am getting in touch with family members and planning trips to see them all. I think family is the most important thing in a person’s life.
Five more concerning Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor
1) How does portraying Edgardo challenge you?
Edgardo is a role that I had to grow into. The first time I had sung Edgardo was on stage at the Met and I think I was 25 or 26. I was so young and just hoping not to pass out from nerves. However, I had one of the greatest conductors of all-time leading the way in the pit, Maestro James Levine. Knowing that he believed in me and my ability gave me confidence and security as the night went on. Today having worked with him is something I will always remember and treasure.
Since then I have had a chance to get to know the role better. That happens with every role the more you sing it. It is a role that is not long, but very demanding. I have also had tonsil surgery so I have also had to re-vocalize the role as well.
I feel more comfortable with Edgardo and enjoy singing it very much. It is mostly realizing to not get excited and dramatic too soon. It is easy to get carried away in the wedding scene or the Wolf’s Crag scene, but you have to remember there is a very taxing tomb scene still to come. Pacing is the key to singing Edgardo.
2) What do you love about preparing Edgardo for the Canadian Opera Company production of Lucia.
I love working with this cast. It is a great group of people and never a dull moment. Plus the COC has been such an inviting company. I only wish that the weather was nicer!!!!!!
[The forecast for tomorrow is for a mix of rain & snow, with a wind-chill in the 20s Fahrenheit. Hopefully it will be warmer by opening night next week]
I also enjoy working with a good friend and mentor Stephen Lord. He has helped me so much in this process. I look forward to working with him more and more.
3) Do you have a favourite moment in the opera?
I love the Wolf’s Crag scene in this production. I get to feel like a stunt man. They throw me around and pour water on my head, it is a lot of fun. Plus it is such a good duet.
4) How do you relate to Edgardo and the story of Lucia di Lammermoor as a modern man?
It is hard for me to relate to Edgardo. I was married into a family that has welcomed me with open arms. I think I relate to his passion for Lucia and his beliefs, but thankfully I have never had to feel his pain.
5) Is there a teacher, singer, actor or an influence that you especially admire?
I admire my teacher Bill Schuman very much. He has been by my side from the beginning and has believed in me from day one. He has also given me the tool to be in a career and now support my family. I will always be thankful and grateful to him. He is part of our family. I look forward to many more years together.
Stephen Costello opens in Lucia di Lammermoor with the Canadian Opera Company on April 16th at the Four Seasons Centre. Further info