Stephen Costello Takes You From MJ to Verdi

The "Duke" of the Metropolitan Opera's "Rigoletto" delivers an eclectic mix of tunes for dinner parties and divas alike.

Photo Credit: Dario Acosta

Stephen Costello is one of the rising stars of the opera world. You can catch the tenor now at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in a production the New York Classical Review says, “Should remain in rotation for as long as people listen to Sinatra.” Here’s Stephen with a playlist that’ll upgrade the tenor of any dinner party. (See what we did there?)

Miles Davis – “Bess You is My Woman Now”

Stephen Costello: For my first song, I pick Miles Davis’ “Bess You Is My Woman Now,” from the “Porgy and Bess” soundtrack.

It was the second collaboration he did with Gil Evans, and it was a new style for Miles Davis, as he could experiment more with scales and improvising with scales over sporadic chord changes.

I was a trumpet player for 15 years prior to becoming an opera singer, and someone told me, he goes, “You gotta listen to Miles Davis!” I was like, “All right.” I went to like… I think it was called The Wall, a record store at the time. And — in like their budget jazz bin — I saw “Porgy and Bess,” and that was the first track that I heard, was “Bess You Is My Woman Now.” It was just amazing sound, I can remember just sitting there just, so relaxed.

As an opera singer, I don’t really wanna be immersed in opera all the time. You kinda want to unwind, but still have a little taste of classical music in it. So you can sit there, have drinks, maybe have a cocktail, get to know everybody, and just have this beautiful sound of Miles Davis’ horn.

Michael Jackson – “Billie Jean”

For my next song, I chose “Billie Jean,” by Michael Jackson from “Thriller.”

I swear, I rememberMotown 25,” even though I was like 3 years old, I remember sitting up, at night, with my dad, on a school night, watching “Motown 25” where Michael Jackson premiered the moon walk. Everybody knows Michael Jackson, or they have like a Michael Jackson memory, so it’s great conversation at a dinner.

He was such an icon, but he was not like, a Kardashian or something, where famous for nothing. He was famous because he was amazing.

Frank Sinatra – “New York, New York”

So my third track, I’d pick “New York, New York,” Frank Sinatra. Just because it just has such a cool vibe. You know, Frank Sinatra is probably the coolest guy that ever walked the face of the earth. He has this aura about him where he just doesn’t care. It’s like, “I am who I am and, you’re either gonna like it or you don’t.”

You know, “New York New York” is just one of those iconic, big band, jazz pieces that just everybody knows, and if you don’t know it, they make up the words. After, after a good dinner party and ample drinks, you can just relax and let go.

Giuseppe Verdi – “Libiamo”

If I had to pick one of my own pieces, something that I’ve sung — cause in, in opera it’s not your piece, it’s Verdi’s piece — and it’s been around for hundreds of years, it would be “Libiamo” from “Traviata.”

So in “La Traviata,” it’s the first scene, and it’s at Violetta’s house. It’s the first time that Alfredo is introduced to Violetta. Violetta is a courtesan, and Alfredo is this young guy — probably comes from money — and he’s introduced to Violetta, and instantaneously, he just falls in love with her. [The song] starts the party off. It kind of is like a toast for the evening, it gets the vibe going.