When Ailyn Pérez and Stephen Costello came together to sing Puccini’s ill-fated lovers in Cincinnati Opera’s La bohème, it was a match made in opera heaven. The Enquirer called Pérez’s Mimì “radiant” and Costello’s Rodolfo “wonderfully sung,” and praised the “warmth of tone and effortless high notes” of their duet; likewise, Music in Cincinnati reported: “The two singers made an attractive and emotionally appealing couple, with fresh young voices that soared. … The chemistry between Costello and Pérez was potent.” Now – in the first of three collaborations together this spring – the lyric soprano and tenor dubbed “America’s fastest-rising husband-and-wife opera stars” (Associated Press) reprise the same roles at Los Angeles Opera, where they headline the company’s signature production of Puccini’s masterpiece. Marking Costello’s house debut, the revival opens for six performances on May 12.
“I feel very comfortable with Ailyn on stage and that allows me to be more intimate in love scenes,” Costello explains. “I also think she is a singer who takes chances when given and that means I have to take chances in order to hold my own on stage.” He adds: “Bohème is very special because we both sang it for the first time together and that is when we started dating.”
Pérez expands on her very operatic love story with her husband now of four years:
"Stephen and I were studying at the Academy of Vocal Arts together. We had worked together in the past, singing opposite each other in La traviata and L'elisir d’amore, but Bohème is what brought us together. We had always been friends, but it was during rehearsals for Bohème that we started dating. I lived alone in a tiny little attic around the corner from Stephen, where he lived with a few other guys - just like Mimì and Rodolfo! After rehearsals we liked to blow off some steam, and Stephen asked me out dancing to the salsa club across the street from where he lived. My response was 'you don't salsa!', but surprisingly enough, he can! He tried to kiss me on the way home, but I turned him down. That didn't last long though, and over the next few months we fell in love. A lot of couples fall in love over Bohème, and lots of them have a line from the opera that is special to them. My favorite line is 'Sempre tua per la vita' [‘always yours, for life’], which Mimì tells Rodolfo in their Act III break-up scene.”
Originally created by iconic film director Herbert Ross, the L.A. Opera’s La bohème has been credited with “maintaining the work’s charm, while breathing vitality into its characters and supplying imaginative new action” (Variety). Conducted by Patrick Summers, music director of the Houston Grand Opera, and featuring a strong supporting cast, the new revival is staged by director Gregory A. Fortner.