The Duke of Mantua in the opera Rigoletto is not a good guy; he preys upon one female conquest after another, discarding the women almost immediately. “In the aria in Act 2, you do see a softer side for a little bit, but right after that he goes to his old ways. It’s not great character transformation. The duke just really treats women like crap,” says American tenor Stephen Costello, who’ll be playing the duke in Houston Grand Opera’s production of the Verdi classic for the third time. It’s the Verdi music that makes up for the part he has to play, Costello says. “When you listen to Verdi, there’s so much theatrics onstage as well as in the music,” Costello says about the story of revenge and betrayal. American bass baritone Ryan McKinny will be singing the court jester role, the father who tries unsuccessfully to keep his daughter Gilda away from the duke he serves. “You can hear the emotions, especially in Rigoletto’s aria. You can hear his heart breaking, his sorrow,” Costello says. The Philadelphia native’s original life plan was to be a trumpet player — he studied it for 15 years — but a high school instrumental teacher’s advice to join the chorus to improve his sight-reading skills led to a discovery that he had a good singing voice. That led Costello to musical theater and finally, in college, to the study of opera. Costello met HGO Music and Artistic Director Patrick Summers while both were working on the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick with the Dallas Opera, and other collaborations followed.

7:30 p.m. January 24 and 29, February 1 and 7, and 2 p.m. January 26 and February 9. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-228-6737 or visit houstongrandopera.org. $20 to $290.
Fri., Jan. 24, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 26, 2 p.m.; Wed., Jan. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 9, 2 p.m., 2014

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