02 September 2009

ARC & Triomphes

Countertenor Costanzo

One of the loveliest things about going to hear music in live performance is the possibility of making a discovery – hearing for the first time an exciting young artist. The risk, however, is that your “discovery” will be fresh primarily to you, and not to everyone else, who will have “discovered” the singer for themselves, ages and ages ago.

Such, alas, is the case with Anthony Roth Costanzo, the countertenor whom I heard in the role of the Sorceress in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at Glimmerglass this summer. Sure, I knew he’d won the Grand Finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions this year – and that he was the first countertenor ever to do so. But apart from that trifling, historic accolade (which, really, who would notice?), I was certain that Costanzo was my discovery.

Speight Jenkins, the director of Seattle Opera (and my role model), would be surprised to hear that. He engaged Costanzo for the company’s young-artist program a while ago, and gave Seattle abundant opportunity to hear that striking voice. During Costanzo’s time as a Princeton undergraduate, the administrators lavished on him every laurel except a dining club in his name. And Princeton is, as my brother likes to remind me, a pretty good little school. Even before his college years, Costanzo began racking up achievements and garnering favorable attention. I may be the last – the very, very last – to find out about him.

Consider, for example, the movie A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries, a Merchant—Ivory picture from 1998, in which Costanzo plays the best friend of the heroine (Leelee Sobieski). In this scene, Costanzo regales her and their classmates with “Voi che sapete,” from The Marriage of Figaro. The dialogue in this clip is dubbed into German (vielen Dank, YouTube!), but the singing is pure Costanzo. Already, the kid was a scary phenomenon, and in case you’re wondering, yes, that is the legendary Jane Birkin as his mother, at the piano.

Nowadays he looks about the same, really: a little taller, and he knows how to shave. He doesn’t appear to have gained an ounce since the movie, though. (Did I mention that he’s a dancer, too?) His voice has matured wonderfully, with the same brightness and openness you hear in the clip, but greater strength and point.

Thus, I respectfully announce that Costanzo is now poised merely to be one of those singers – like my “discoveries” Joyce Castle and David Adam Moore, who were also at Glimmerglass this season – for whom I go out of my way. I’m looking forward to hearing Costanzo for the first time again, soon.

Seated, yet on the rise: Costanzo (center),
with Liza Forrester and Kathryn Guthrie at Glimmerglass


(av)Uncle(ular) Peter said...

Another great discovery, Maestro! Truly amazing musicality. I found an except from 'Midsummer' on YouTube. I'd love to hear his Handel. Thanks for the article!

Girl From Texas said...

It doesn't hurt that the kid is a hottie, either