Constantine Costi on his passion for opera and seafood

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Constantine Costi is an expert in seafood as he’s been involved in the family business, De Costi Seafoods, since before he can remember. But what many people don’t know about the 30-year-old is that he has also had an enduring love-affair with opera since the age of 14, when he was drawn to a vinyl recording of Debussy’s Pelleas et Melisande in an op shop.

“I remember just listening in my room to this record over and over and over again. I was completely intoxicated and felt like I’d discovered this private little world that none of my friends knew about. That no one knew about,” Costi tells The Sydney Morning Herald. “It was just a happy accident. It was a passion and an obsession, and an unbelievable recognition that music could be this beautiful and moving.”

Constantine Costi is now a full-time opera and theatre director. Picture by: Australian Brandenberg Orchestra.

Costi is now a full-time opera and theatre director who was due to launch his solo directorial debut with Opera Australia this year. However, due to COVID-19, his chance to direct La Traviata in April’s ‘Handa on Sydney Harbour’ production was postponed to next year. News which has definitely not dampened Costi’s excitement about the possibilities for the upcoming production.

In fact, he’s been studying La Traviata, poring over books at the State Library and listening to “way too many recordings” in an effort to bring fresh eyes and ears to Verdi’s masterwork. With such dedication, it’s a happy thought that the production is still set to go ahead in 2021.

‘I probably should’ve been a farmer in Cyprus’:

Costi grew up on Sydney’s North Shore, the son of Greek Cypriot (his father’s side) and Italian (his mother’s side) migrants. His grandfather came from Cyprus in the 1930s and opened a fish and chip shop in Lakemba.

“My dad and his two sisters and brother lived above the shop. They learned the family trade and they went from there and started De Costi Seafoods. It’s something I’ve been doing my entire life — filleting fish and working in the markets at the fish shop,” Costi tells the SMH.

De Costi Seafoods has played a huge part in Constantine’s life. It was founded by Andrea and George Costi in 1981. Picture by: De Costi Seafoods.

“There was even a period a few years ago when my brother [Michael], who’s a playwright, and I were running our own little stall at Birkenhead Plaza on Saturdays and Sundays, working 18-hour days and then rehearsing avant-garde theatre pieces during the week.”

Family is central to Costi’s life and he’s conscious his own success owes much to the decisions and hard work of the family. While his parents, Steve and Connie, knew little or nothing about the world of opera that had captured their son, they were happy to back him and his siblings in whatever directions they chose.

“I’m just a very lucky person to have come along at the time I came along. Otherwise, I probably should have been a farmer in Cyprus, pulling potatoes out of the ground and helping the goat give birth,” Costi says.

Constantine Costi (right) and his siblings all work in the creative industry.

“My parents were incredibly supportive but they weren’t particularly educated themselves beyond high school. They married very young and their lives were family and work. And that’s a beautiful thing in itself.

“But I think they were just excited by us following our passions. I’m really lucky. It isn’t the stereotype of the traditional Mediterranean family. We were free to explore what we wanted and we were totally encouraged.”

And it’s for that reason that Costi will be supported by his family every step of the way on his incredible journey with Opera Australia.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

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