Stephen Costello


As the Associated Press observes, Stephen Costello is “a prodigiously gifted singer whose voice makes an immediate impact.” The Philadelphia-born tenor quickly established a reputation as a “first-class talent” (Opera News) after coming to national attention in 2007, when, aged 26, he made his Metropolitan Opera debut on the company’s season-opening night. Two years later Costello won the prestigious Richard Tucker Award, and has since appeared at many of the world’s most important opera houses and music festivals, including the Metropolitan Opera New York; Royal Opera House Covent Garden; Deutsche Oper Berlin; Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin; Vienna State Opera; Bayerische Staatsoper Munich and the Salzburg Festival. 

In 2010 Costello created the role of Greenhorn (Ishmael) in the Dallas Opera’s world-premiere production of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s Moby-Dick, prompting Opera magazine to hail him as “a tenor of ineffable sensitivity, with unfailing elegance in singing and a disconcerting ease in producing notes in head-voice.” Costello has since revised this role at San Francisco opera and Washington National Opera. Engagements in the 14-15 season and beyond include his return to the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, Vienna State Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Houston Grand Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin and Teatro Real Madrid.

NB for a full up-to-date biography please contact Rachel Walters  

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Operatic Repertoire

BELLINI - I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Tebaldo
BELLINI - La sonnambula, Elvino
BIZET - Les Percheurs de Perles, Nadir
DELIBES - Lakme, Gerald
DONIZETTI - Anna Bolena, Percy
DONIZETTI - Don Pasquale, Ernesto
DONIZETTI - L'elisir d'amore, Nemorino
DONIZETTI - La fille du Regiment, Tonio
DONIZETTI - Lucia di Lammermoor, Edgardo
DONIZETTI - Maria Stuarda, Leicester
DONIZETTI - Roberto Devereux, Roberto
GOUNOD - Faust, Faust
GOUNOD - Romeo et Juliette, Romeo
MASCAGNI - L'Amico Fritz, Fritz
MASSENET - Manon, Des Grieux
PUCCINI - Gianni Schicchi, Rinuccio
PUCCINI - La Boheme, Rodolfo
ROSSINI - Guillaume Tell, Fisherman
STRAUSS - Der Rosenkavalier, Italian Tenor
VERDI - Falstaff, Fenton
VERDI - La Traviata, Alfredo
VERDI - Otello, Cassio
VERDI - Rigoletto, Duke

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Metropolitan Opera, New York

LEHAR: The Merry Widow

Hanna Glawari: Susan Graham
Valencienne: Danielle de Niese
Danilo: Rod Gilfry
Camille de Rosillon: Stephen Costello

Baron Mirko Zeta: Alan Opie

Conductor: Fabio Luisi
Production: Susan Stroman
Set Designer: Julian Crouch

Metropolitan Opera, New York

LEHAR: The Merry Widow

Hanna Glawari: Susan Graham
Valencienne: Danielle de Niese
Danilo: Rod Gilfry
Camille de Rosillon: Stephen Costello

Baron Mirko Zeta: Alan Opie

Conductor: Fabio Luisi
Production: Susan Stroman
Set Designer: Julian Crouch

Metropolitan Opera, New York

LEHAR: The Merry Widow

Hanna Glawari: Susan Graham
Valencienne: Danielle de Niese
Danilo: Rod Gilfry
Camille de Rosillon: Stephen Costello

Baron Mirko Zeta: Alan Opie

Conductor: Fabio Luisi
Production: Susan Stroman
Set Designer: Julian Crouch

Metropolitan Opera, New York

LEHAR: The Merry Widow

Hanna Glawari: Susan Graham
Valencienne: Danielle de Niese
Danilo: Rod Gilfry
Camille de Rosillon: Stephen Costello

Baron Mirko Zeta: Alan Opie

Conductor: Fabio Luisi
Production: Susan Stroman
Set Designer: Julian Crouch

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'Love Duets' CD

Warner Classics

Love is in the aria for opera's new It couple

If Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu were the Richard Burton and Liz Taylor of opera (on again, off again, divorce), husband and wife Stephen Costello and Ailyn Pérez are the Jay Z and Beyoncé. They’re modern, they’re hot and their marital status is taking them beyond opera’s heartland into Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post, and YouTube ubiquity that includes the gushy mini-doc An Operatic Love Story.

Labelled opera’s reigning It couple and a power couple, in person “Pérello” are charmingly low-key. We meet in an Italian restaurant round the corner from the Royal Opera House. A squeaky dumbwaiter makes the place a bit Fawlty Towers but it’s a favourite post-show haunt of Covent Garden’s artists; signed photos of Pavarotti, Joseph Calleja and opera’s ultimate power couple, Bob and Ange (Alagna and Gheorghiu), line the walls. The opera-loving owner, Pino, has eyes for petite Pérez; Costello barely gets a look-in. The duo, both in their early thirties, don’t command attention from other diners, but you sense that’s only a matter of time.

Their album, Love Duets, is released today, full of beautiful singing and glossy pictures. Tomorrow they open in La traviata at the ROH. They have sung together on stage once before in London — in January 2012, Pérez jumped in for soprano Ermonela Jaho opposite Costello for one performance of Verdi’s opera — but this is an entire performance run. Not only that, the ROH has chosen it to be its first opera streamed free and globally online, and relayed live to BP Big Screens nationwide. The pair have also just announced a live concert of love duets at the Barbican, London, in January.

Under that kind of spotlight, what’s it like to bring opera’s greatest romances to life with your other half? Is it a cauldron of onstage chemistry? Unbridled passion?

“In something like Traviata it’s extremely difficult,” says Costello. “In our first scene it’s the first time the two characters meet. And it’s hard to recreate the first time you’ve met somebody when you’ve spent the past five years living together.” The pair met at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts, brought together by music and trust as they navigated a tough business. They married in 2008.

“What makes it easy is that I know Ailyn as an artist. I’ve seen her sing Traviata a million times . . . I know what she likes to do where. It makes me more comfortable, especially in a duet.”

“What’s most exciting when I’m working with Stephen is there’s a part of me that relaxes a little,” says Pérez. “I know I can count him. He serves the music and the scene, and he’s not unfocused. Sometimes artists go crazy when press happens. It’s me, me, me . . . I don’t get that with him.”

Both say that on stage they sing to the character, not the partner, though Costello concedes he may indulge himself in a recital. “When you’re just doing sections of a piece you . . . have to bring something. And something comes out in me and says: ‘I’m proud to be here with my wife.’ I think the audience can see that.”

If anything, they have to operate as individual performers on stage. “You have to detach to personally do your very best,” says Pérez. “Like, I can’t be worried about how Stephen’s feeling that night, because I have to perform. We’ve learnt not to be so intense.”

If Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu were the Richard Burton and Liz Taylor of opera … husband and wife Stephen Costello and Ailyn Pérez are the Jay Z and Beyoncé

Pérez and Costello both have blossoming independent careers. Pérez is a Royal Opera favourite, wowing this year as Massenet’s coquettish Manon and in Puccini’s Turandot, with her “luscious, fruity timbre” (The Times). Costello had a phenomenal Metropolitan Opera debut aged 26 in 2007, promoted by maestro James Levine on the season-opening night of Lucia di Lammermoor from singing Arturo to the male lead, Edgardo. He spans from bel canto to contemporary opera and has a wonderful Italianate surety.

Accepting criticism from your nearest and dearest is always a challenge, and there is little room for it in this relationship. “In all honesty, you don’t ask questions if you want an honest answer,” says Costello.

“No, that’s not true,” counters Pérez. “I’m sorry . . . you want support. You want affirmation. We’ve been down that road and . . .”

“It’s not productive,” finishes Costello.

The bread and butter of the soprano and tenor is romantic tension, which brings another mind-bending challenge: watching your partner cavort onstage with another singer. “In Valencia, I watched Ailyn sing Manon with Vittorio Grigolo [an Italian tenor with Rat Pack good looks]. He’s reading the letter [of marriage] between her legs and she’s wearing this nightgown thing. I’m like: ‘I can’t watch this,’ ” says Costello.

He is equally uncomfortable when the tables are turned. “He’s kicked me out of the theatre before,” says Pérez, who seems to handle the eye candy more coolly.

The Mexican-American Pérez and Irish–American Costello both hail from large families and would like children. Now, however, is not the time to disrupt their career momentum. “We have a dog [called Tequila] and she’s really special, like a child,” says Costello.

“We’re young, we’re still proving ourselves and that’s the edge that we have in our shows,” says Pérez. “It’s not like we’ve arrived. We’re not in our Tosca days.”

For now, there’s the album to promote. Love Duets is an enjoyable listen; a mix of operatic favourites (La bohème, La traviata, Faust et al) and some musical theatre (Tony and Maria’s One Hand, One Heart from West Side Story, If I Loved You from Carousel) all accompanied by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The pair grew up loving musical theatre, and its inclusion is also a conscious nod to broadening opera’s appeal.

That’s a tough job made harder, Costello feels, by lack of support. If only Jay Z would go to the opera, he says, a generation would follow. In March he was singing in Moby-Dick at the Washington National Opera, “and the president didn’t come to the opera once”, he complains.

“And Moby-Dick was one of Obama’s favourite novels,” points out Pérez. “These people who are in the press all the time — the president or pop stars — they don’t support the other arts. How are we going to get young people interested?”

Essentially, Costello and Pérez are managing three careers: their individual work and the Pérello brand, which is increasingly centre stage. “At first it can bother you but it’s helping us get more jobs,” says Costello. The pair collect their joint production posters, framed at home in Chattanooga. “It’s always great to work together . . . and we’re getting paid twice!”

No, they don’t have a Bob and Ange rate (allegedly two for the price of three rather than an operatic BOGOF for joint appearances). They don’t believe the power-couple hype, either.

“It’s not really true. The Royal Opera aren’t going to hire us both to sing in the same cast just because we’re married,” says Costello. “If they didn’t like one of us, they’d only hire one of us.”

“And we’re not trying to be exclusive,” says Pérez.

“Demanding that we would only work together,” explains Costello. “That’s terrible. That causes a lot of problems. We wouldn’t do that.”

Who’s demanded that? “No comment,” they both reply.

Opera is eager to find another celebrated on-stage partnership with the chemistry of Callas and Di Stefano, Freni and Pavarotti, or Netrebko and Villazón. With their added offstage romance, Pérez and Costello are joining that elite, generating a tangible on-stage frisson. Do they feel it or is it just part of the job?

“Oh, I still feel it,” says Pérez.

“I hope there’s chemistry,” says Costello. “If there isn’t, that would suck. That would be a long night.”

 - Emma Pomfret

The Times, May 5, 2014, Emma Pomfret

Ailyn Perez and Stephen Costello sing Love Duets Presto News, 5 May 2014

The Sunday Times review
The Sunday Times

The Guardian review

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, 11 May 2014

Mail On Sunday - Album of the week David Mellor, Mail on Sunday, 11 May 2014

Wall Street Journal article

Stephen and Ailyn interview

New York

Wall Street Journal article about Stephen and Ailyn Elisabeth Braw, 23 January 2014

Tucker Gala

Avery Fisher Hall

"In a deliciously comic scene with her husband and fellow Tucker Prize recipient, Stephen Costello, [Ailyn Perez] showed her sassy side, as Norina played hard to get in “Esulti pur la Barbara,” from “L’Elisir d’Amore.” Each revealed a perfect grasp of comic timing in acting and singing. 

Mr. Costello’s bright, ringing top notes came through in Gounod’s “Salut! Demeure chaste et pure,” from “Faust.”

Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, New York Times, 18 November 2013


Lucia di Lammermoor

Canadian Opera Company, Toronto

"Stephen Costello’s Edgardo is another masterful performance, eschewing the standard romantic tenor for something rugged and more convincing. A bit of Glaswegian steampunk in his costume and a voice that rang out time and time again with purity and passion made for an unbeatable combination." Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic, 18 April 2013


La Fille du Regiment - Tonio

San Diego Opera

"Tonio’s nail biting “Pour mon âme” finds Costello hitting the nine high Cs with an introductory staccato adding a splendid, dramatic extension, and he effortlessly holds on to the concluding note with charismatic tenuto. It’s one the most memorable highlights of the opera.", January 2013
"Costello was completely convincing as Tonio, her suitor who joins the army just so her can marry her (then he runs up against the Marquise)."  U-T San Diego, 27 January 2013


Moby Dick

San Francisco Opera

"Tenor Stephen Costello sang the role of Greenhorn – the Ishmael of the novel – with sympathetic tone and an attention to the character’s journey from innocence to experience."
Bachtrack, October 2012


La Traviata - Alfredo

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

"The first cast ... lacked stage chemistry. But from the moment Ermonela Jaho meets her Alfredo in the form of Stephen Costello in her glittering salon, you sense the electricity between them...Jaho’s gestures and attitudes have an expressive grace for which Costello’s airy, boyish lyricism makes the ideal foil."

  The Independent, January 2012


Anna Bolena - Percy

Metropolitan Opera, New York

"and it was good to hear the young American tenor Stephen Costello back on ringing form.." The Sunday Times, October 2011
"As the hapless Percy, Anna’s former lover — and possibly husband — tenor Stephen Costello sang with fervent lyricism and coped extremely well with the many daunting high notes in the role." Washington Post, September 2011


Romeo et Juliette

Opera Company of Philadelphia

"But the chief attraction is the casting of America's fastest-rising husband-and-wife opera stars in the title roles: tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Perez. Young, attractive singers who are proud alumnae of the Academy's training program, they made the performance a memorable one.
Costello, winner of the 2009 Richard Tucker Award, is a prodigiously gifted singer whose voice makes an immediate impact. There's an unforced warmth and generosity to his sound, and his big aria, "Ah! Leve-toi, soleil!" ("Arise, o sun!") showed excellent control over phrasing and dynamics. Occasionally he pushes up to a high note from below — but once reached, those notes ring out excitingly."
Associated Press, February 2011
"Costello gave the type of solid performance that has earned him major roles at the Metropolitan, where he will be the leading tenor in next season's opening night Anna Bolena. The quality that differentiates Costello is his solid voice that retains a defined character no matter where he is on the scale. It is a bit baritonal, reminiscent of Plácido Domingo's sound. In addition, Costello employs stylish diminuendos and graceful, classy phrasing." Opera Critic, February 2011