A singer who brings her true self to the Philharmonic

Anthony Roth Costanzo never just walked on stage and sang.

Instead, as the New York Philharmonic artist-in-residence, this opposite is planning a series of events – starting Thursday and continuing through spring – to complement the painting. self-portrait of a musician who is, among other things, also a charismatic actor. , interdisciplinary connector and community organizer.

His festival,”True Self: Inner Beauty, ” Reaches from Lincoln Center to the Lower East Side, Bronx and Queens; includes premieres as well as reenactments of classic acts; and bring uncanny joy is “Only one octave apart“His show with variety artist Justin Vivian Bond, into the concert hall.

It is the product of a restless personality who believes there are too many hours in the day to do only one respondent.

Costanzo, who turned 40 in May, said: “I sleep eight hours a night and speak with an inexplicable bubbly expression. “So I have another 16 hours. Singing for more than two hours is not a great idea, as you will only kill your voice. Maybe I could learn two more hours – make decorations, musicals or something. That then leaves me with another 12 hours. If I want four of them to live one life, I have one full working day left. “

That might seem like a lot of time, he added, but the schedule is definitely tough. He also released an album version of “Only an Octave Apart” this week, preparing for the revival of “Rodelinda” by Handel at the Metropolitan Opera and return there later this spring to repeat his stardom “Akhnaten” by Philip Glass.

You can see why he hasn’t been on vacation for a decade.

Costanzo didn’t even take a break when the pandemic brought a live performance to a halt in March 2020. Within a week of the first lockdown, he was writing an essay for Opera News about the impact. of the possible mass cancellations for the industry. . Then, over a Zoom cocktail with Deborah Borda, chief executive officer of the Philharmonic, he began to conceive of an idea that would become the Bandwagon: pop-up concerts from a pickup that double as shows community engagement process and leading up to the presidential election, drive-in voter registration.

The break, for example, comes whenever Costanzo rides his bike or cooks a meal, which often happens. (Among those who know him, he’s famous as a host.) “I can’t be on the phone or check my email,” he said. “I have to focus on that.”

Life was more or less always like that for Costanzo, a former child actor. James Ivory, director of such films as “Howards End” and “A Room With a View,” recalls in an interview how a young man Costanzo gave him a recording of his singing. after an audition.

“The next day, I was driving while playing music,” Ivory said. “It’s music that I really like – Bach and Handel – and he sang it beautifully.”

Costanzo took the part, and the two have been friends ever since; Ivory even participated in Costanzo’s undergraduate thesis project at Princeton University. There, instead of writing typical articles, the young singer dispatched a team of prestigious artists, including dancer Karole Armitage, to create a fantasy film about the life of a 18th-century castle. Costanzo raised $35,000 from various faculties, and eventually convinced Princeton to provide an additional $100,000 to produce a documentary about the project.

After graduation, in 2004, Armitage offered Costanzo as chief executive officer of her company, Armitage Gone! Dance, where he has raised about $3 million, has planned a gala dinner and continues to attract the support of celebrities – such as Christopher Walken, who shoot advertisement for the troupe. His “fairly massive network,” as director Zack Winokur describes it, has since been implemented in projects such as “Glass Handel,” an interdisciplinary concert featuring Justin Peck’s choreography, Live art by artist George Condo and costumes by Raf Simons.

Bond joked that after taking to the stage at the end of “Only an Octave Apart,” Costanzo was able to text 20 people and make dinner reservations during the time Bond had to pull out a single bobby pin. But Costanzo, a member of the enterprising team Modern Opera Company of America and recent recipients of $150,000 Mellon Foundation grant to support cross-industry collaboration, he says he doesn’t network for his own sake.

“I don’t care about any artists because of their popularity,” he said. “My relationships go beyond that. Unless there’s a sense of community, there’s nothing you can do; It’s boring without that.”

Borda, the leader of the Philharmonic, says that he “developed a relationship with people and potentially related to the guy who drove the truck. and the Met’s superstar divas. ”

In late summer 2020, Costanzo was at the entrance to Brooklyn Bridge Park, explain what a partner is from the bed of the Bandwagon pickup. About a year later, he was just down the street, in St. Ann’s Warehouse, performing “Only an Octave Apart” with Bond.

That performance by St. Ann, and the new album based on it, is inspired by Carol Burnett and Beverly Sills’ 1970s special of the same name, blending Bond’s gritty pop with Costanzo’s classic repertoire.

“The scary word ‘crossover’ never even occurred to me because that’s not how I see this project,” says Costanzo. “Each thing amplifies the other and makes it more than it is.”

Winokur directs the show, which features choreography by Nico Muhly, music direction by Thomas Bartlett, and (sometimes blinding) costumes by Jonathan Anderson. It has Bond’s signature political fervor masquerading as frivolous, and is heartwarming, but beyond that, opens as performances are cautiously filmed indoors, a bit melancholy.

“It unites us with ourselves throughout the pandemic,” said Bond, adding that with two artists, one transgender and the other a villain, whose voices regularly challenge the stereotypes of the world. appearance-based expectations, “it’s one of the weirdest projects I’ve ever been on. ”

Costanzo, accustomed to the rigor and precision of classical music, became more comfortable with a looser style. Bond, often needing little more than a bare stage and a small band, developed an appreciation for the interconnected parts of a major production. Now they plan to take the project as far as they can.

“What we’re saying is we should try EGOT with this,” said Costanzo, referring to the rare artist that has won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.

At the very least, “Only an Octave Apart” will go to the Philharmonic – where excerpts, arranged for orchestra by Muhly, wrap up this week’s show. “I know very well how weird this is in that space,” said Winokur, who is returning to direct the show. “But it really doesn’t have any choice being any other way.”

There will still be jokes and jokes, Bond said: “I’m not going to just stand there and be quiet. That’s not how I do it.”

“Authentic Self” also includes premieres by Joel Thompson and Gregory Spears, both of which are the setting of commissioned texts by poet Tracy K. Smith; an unusual song from Berlioz’s “Les Nuits d’Été”, which is almost never sung by a countervocalist; performance of the first Philharmonic work by composer Julius Eastman after being rediscovered; and a series of talks and community events.

“First of all I am an artist, but my brain exists in a world of engagement, marketing, education, journalism, leadership, fundraising, collaboration, curation – all,” says Costanzo. all those things.”

He usually looks like an administrator in the process. Opera singers, like professional ballet dancers and athletes, all face contract expiration dates. Borda said that, while Costanzo should stay on stage as long as he feels comfortable, “when I see such a talent, he should run an opera company or an orchestra.”

Bond says it’s just a matter of what he wants to do: “He can limit himself to something as small as running the Met, but I can see him doing so much more.”

The future is always on his mind, Costanzo said.

“I feel like my identity is and always will be as a singer, but I care most about where I can make an impact,” he added. “So far, it’s been a combination of being a singer and sometimes a producer, creator and leader. If at some point the impact looks like it’s going in the direction of not being able to sing, that doesn’t really make me nervous.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/26/arts/music/anthony-roth-costanzo-ny-phil.html A singer who brings her true self to the Philharmonic

Fry Electronics Team

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