Tenor Stephen Costello exploded the rigid form of the song recital Sunday, cheerfully dismantling and reshaping it to fit his exuberant voice and persona. Already an ascending force in opera, Costello skipped over traditions and expectations to show off his engaging, pure voice in songs, many of which sounded like encores.
With pianist Danielle Orlando, his longtime coach at the Academy of Vocal Arts, showing the way, Costello sang Irish ballads, two arias, and an array of Italian pastries in his debut in the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society's series at the American Philosophical Society. No heavy lifting here; his hometown audience didn't expect Die Winterreise. He laughingly confessed it was only his second recital, and won every listener by chatting about his gig singing twice - at 8:30 and 10:30 - each Sunday at St. John's Church. "I'm Irish, not Italian," he said before singing "Danny Boy," and casting the words in Irish intonation. Who could resist that?