Anthony Roth Costanzo (photo by Pix Talarico)
Recital to Reveal Rare Beauty of Unique Male Voice
Although similar to the female contralto or mezzo-soprano, the male countertenor voice has an unearthly beauty all its own. Used prominently in operas during the baroque era, contemporary composers are rediscovering and utilizing the countertenor’s unique sonority. And countertenors themselves are once again becoming opera stars, like the famous Farinelli of the 18th century.
One of the most acclaimed countertenors of our time, Anthony Roth Costanzo, will give a recital December 18 at the Folly Theater. He is being presented by the Harriman-Jewell Series.
Costanzo says that there are lots of operatic roles for countertenors, but those operas are rarely done.
“We sing the repertoire that was written for castrated men in the 18th century,” Costanzo said. “That baroque repertoire is not the staple of an opera house, the way Tosca or La bohème is.”
Costanzo’s introduction to opera happened early. A musically gifted child, he moved to New York when he was only 11 to perform on Broadway. His parents, who were both professors at Duke University, took turns taking sabbaticals so they could live with him.
“I felt I wanted to give it a try in the Big Apple,” Costanzo said. “And that’s where I started doing Broadway and things like that. But by the time I was 13, I was asked to be in my first opera. So I got to learn all about opera at an early age. I fell in love with it because of its emotion.”
“I think part of the reason I fell in love with it was because my parents were both psychologists, and it’s such a psychologically complex story,” Costanzo said.
His career has since taken him to the world’s great opera houses. Two of Costanzo’s most memorable appearances at the Metropolitan Opera include the baroque pastiche opera, The Enchanted Island, in which he sang the roles of both Ferdinand and Prospero, and Philip Glass’ Akhnaten, in which he sang the title role.
Costanzo is not only a singer but also a theatrical visionary. He’s noted for his work with some of the world’s greatest visual artists, like George Condo and film director James Ivory. One of Costanzo’s most acclaimed collaborations was with one of Japan’s biggest kabuki theaters, the Minamiza theater in Kyoto.
“The Tale of Genji fused the ancient art of kabuki and noh with the ancient art of opera,” Costanzo said. “We gave close to 100 performances over three years and sold over 70,000 tickets. It’s a very powerful piece about the interaction of two different cultural traditions.”
Costanzo says his Kansas City recital “will represent a wide swath of who I am as a person.”
“I look forward to singing some compositions that were written specifically for me, like a work by Joel Thompson based on poetry of the Harlem Renaissance,” Costanzo said. “I will also do some of standard rep, like Les nuits d’été by Hector Berlioz. I think it will be interesting to hear it sung by a countertenor rather than a mezzo-soprano or soprano. I’m also going to do some songs by Liszt. I am Hungarian myself, so I feel this real connection to Liszt’s music and this heritage that we share. I’ll even be singing some Gershwin, which is a nod to my early days on Broadway and something that is deeply embedded in me as a performer.”
His accompanist for the recital, Bryan Wagorn, has been a long-time friend and collaborator.
“What you get to see as evidence on the stage is over a decade of collaboration and music-making and growth together,” Costanzo said. “That is a very special bond, the way that we breathe together, the way that he knows how to make moments more dramatic by virtue of our joint musicality. Just like a great tennis partner or ballroom dance partner, the longer and deeper that connection is, the more profound it can be for the audience.”
Go to www.hjseries.org for event tickets and details.
2021-2022 Harriman-Jewell Series Season of Performances
Nov. 18: Renée Fleming, soprano (Helzberg Hall, 1601 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.)
Dec. 6: Canadian Brass Holiday Concert (Helzberg Hall)
Dec. 18: Anthony Roth Costanzo, countertenor (Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th St., Kansas City, Mo.)
Jan. 21, 2022: Parsons Dance (Muriel Kauffman Theatre)
Jan. 29: Khatia Buniatishvili, pianist (Folly Theater)
Feb. 19: The King’s Singers (Folly Theater)
Feb. 26: Martin James Bartlett, pianist in Free Discovery Concert (Gano Hall, William Jewell College, 500 College Hill, Liberty, Mo.)
March 12: Brandon Goldberg Trio (White Theatre, The J KC, 5801 W. 115 St., Overland Park, Kan.)
March 26: SooBeen Lee, violinist in Free Discovery Concert (Gano Hall, William Jewell College, 500 College Hill, Liberty, Mo.)
April 3: Scottish Ensemble with bassist Edgar Meyer (Folly Theater)
April 8: Lucy Negro Redux (Muriel Kauffman Theatre)
April 12: Joyce DiDonato’s Eden (Folly Theater)
April 24: Daniil Trifonov, pianist (Folly Theater)
April 29: Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason, cellist and pianist (Folly Theater)
April 30: Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason, cellist and pianist in Free Discovery Concert (Folly Theater)
May 15: Samantha Ege, pianist in Free Discovery Concert (Folly Theater)
May 27: Dorrance Dance (Muriel Kauffman Theatre)
To learn more and purchase tickets, visit HJSERIES.ORG or call 816-415-5025.