In this June 29, 2014 photo provided by the San Francisco Opera, soprano Ailyn Perez and her husband, tenor Stephen Costello, rehearse for Verdi's "La Traviata" at the War Memorial Opera House. The couple perform together whenever they can, although their careers often have them continents apart. (AP Photo/San Francisco Opera/Kristen Loken)

Young, married and operatic

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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- Alek Shrader and Daniela Mack are having the kind of summer most young married couples would envy: working and relaxing in the mountains of New Mexico.

But when August is over, instead of heading home, they'll hit the road. They're both opera singers and "home" is a furnished apartment or hotel room wherever one of them -- or, if they're lucky, both of them -- happen to be performing.

"We're completely nomadic, traveling gypsies," said Mack, a mezzo-soprano who is singing the title role of Bizet's "Carmen" at the Santa Fe Opera, while her husband performs the tenor role of Ernesto in Donizetti's "Don Pasquale."

They discussed their unusual lifestyle during an interview last week at the opera house.

"We don't own any furniture, just clothing and scores," Shrader said. "So every three or four months we visit our respective parents, who keep our extra clothing in their garage. We change out the suitcase and get back on the road."

Another young married operatic couple, soprano Ailyn Perez and tenor Stephen Costello, do own a home, but they rarely get to visit it together, given the demands of their careers.

They met and married (in 2008) in Philadelphia, where Costello grew up and where they studied at the Academy of Vocal Arts. When her parents moved from Chicago to Chattanooga, Tennessee, that seemed like an appealing spot to buy a house, and, as she put it: "also maybe a place we could grow into."

The couple spoke in an interview in New York last month where Costello was appearing in a concert and she was helping promote their joint album of operatic and Broadway favorites, appropriately titled "Love Duets." From there, they flew to San Francisco, where they just completed a run of Verdi's "La Traviata."

"We've been lucky with working together," said Costello. "Not that we'd go to a company said say, 'Hey, you need to hire us together,' because people don't like that, and we don't have that power anyway. But a lot of casting directors see us in roles together, not because we're married but because they like us as artists."

Yet Perez is quick to note that later this summer, Costello will head off to Japan -- alone. Like Mack and Shrader, they'll rely on phone calls or Skype to stay in touch.

"You get to tour the world and do what you love, but sometimes you realize, hey it's wonderful but I miss my family," Perez said. "So when you get together you appreciate it more."

Both couples met as apprentices, and though all four are currently in demand around the world, they seem aware of the dangers of a two-career family whose careers can develop unevenly.

Shrader said that when he and Mack joined San Francisco's Merola Opera Program, "we were given a huge lecture about how you shouldn't date a singer. Because eventually one of you is going to be more successful than the other one, and that's going to create jealousy and competition in your relationship."

But Shrader is confident they can avoid the pitfalls, insisting, "I'd be happy to be the one who's hanging onto coattails and taking care of the kids." Mack agrees: "As long as the family still is a healthy unit, it just means one of us will work more than the other one."

For his part, Costello acknowledged that "having the same amount of success makes things a little easier. I think it would be harder for a couple, if one's doing a lot of stuff and the other's not working a lot and they both want the same amount."

Both couples say children are definitely in their future, though Perez noted that making that happen is in part "a matter of logistics. We actually will have to BE together."

She's 34 and Costello is 32, and they don't seem to feel any immediate pressure. "There's something about being a little older and having your priorities straight," Costello said, "and knowing what it is you have to do to raise a family."

For Mack and Shrader, both 32 and married three years, having children will likely be the spur that prompts them to finally pick a place and call it home.

"I think it comes down to whenever the first kid is ready to go to school," Shrader said with a smile. "That's the deadline."

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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