Playing The Chairman of the Board...in an Opera?

Oct 25, 2015

Philadelphia tenor Stephen Costello has survived tonsil surgery, reflux, and most recently, the Metropolitan Opera's super-glitzy, Las Vegas-style production of Rigoletto. The morning after opening night, he took stock of it all with The Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns.

David Patrick Stearns: The singing seemed effortless. The high notes had a new sense of color. But there's one thing tenor Stephen Costello didn't learn about singing Rigoletto while a student at Philadelphia's Academy of Vocal Arts: how to act like Frank Sinatra. That's required when playing the Duke in the Metropolitan Opera's Rigoletto updated to 1960s Las Vegas. Luckily, Costello had much to draw on.

Stephen Costello: I've always had a fascination with Frank Sinatra. He doesn't care what people think. He does what he wants. He does what he thinks is right, but he just had this life and this persona that's hard to have anymore.

DPS: But when his character is preparing for an assignation, Costello stole some moves from comic actor Ben Stiller... crossing his legs, unzipping his jacket.

SC: He has to do it and  get all comfortable and try to look a little more sexy, but, like in an awkward way.

DPS: Costello is back from a dark period following the last year's announcement that he and soprano Ailyn Perez were divorcing. There were vocal ramifications that prompted his cancelation in La Traviata at the Met last December when his throat muscles went into a spasm. But there were other barriers.

SC: I was going through a trust issue and I didn't trust anybody. Anybody that was part of the situation that I was in prior to that was...I can't have them around.

DPS: Though frequently cast with Perez, Costello has also learned that singing with others enables artistic growth.

SC: You need to get other ideas, and if you know what somebody is doing all the time you know how you're going to react to that. So I now want to do the opposite of what I've always been doing.  

DPS: One unexpected source of support came from Placido Domingo, who sent him a Rigoletto opening night note of encouragement.

SC: He's like this grandfather that just makes you just feel so good.

DPS: And that's what so many singers need to do their best - the comfort and support of being wanted.