The Costa Sisters
Opera’s 3 singing sisters. Sibling rivalry? I think not!
3 different voice types, perfect for making music together!

Ginger, Marina & Mariam have retained the playfulness nurtured by the warm Sicilian soil of their childhood. From infancy, the children of Walt Jackson and Emilia Costa frequently traveled with their parents from Salt Lake City, Utah (Walt’s home town) to Palermo (Emilia’s ancestral abode). Italian is the children’s mother tongue, which made kindergarten in the U.S. interesting, but served the singers well in the opera world.

Ginger, a mezzo-soprano, is a ten-year veteran of the Metropolitan Opera, where she was a young artist, and features frequently in its Live in HD broadcasts to theaters worldwide. While Ginger has appeared in opera houses from New York to San Francisco, and from Switzerland to Spain, Russia is the farthest she’s been from home to-date. Her voice, luminous gold-green eyes, and exotic looks make her “the world’s gypsy-of-choice” as Carmen (Opera Today). Ginger lives with her husband, Spencer Burk.

No less desirable, Marina is a lyric soprano with “an authentic Italianate sound and temperament to burn” (Opera News). After winning first place in the 2015 Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition she was praised by The New York Times for giving “ a dramatically and musically alluring rendition notable for her burnished timbre and subtle phrasing.” Marina has also performed in opera houses in the United States and throughout the world. In 2016 Ms Costa-Jackson took home 2nd place in Placido Domingo’s Operalia as well as the Pepita Embil prize of Zarzuela.

But wait! There is another Costa-Jackson. The third, and youngest sister, Miriam, a coloratura soprano has made two concert tours in Russia and Belarus with her sisters, including a performance with Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Friends. Most recently she and her sisters sang for the Nantucket Musical Arts Society. In 2017 they returned to Russia for an extended tour with stops in Lithuania, Georgia and Armenia with conductor and impresario Constantine Orbelian.

Public acclaim always seems to follow the Costa-Jacksons. Each recognized for her unique beauty and talent, the sisters laugh about a family memory: “Marina always got noticed at the Capo (Palermo’s open-air market)” Emilia relates. “Men would call out: ‘I meravighi dû mari!’ to her. (‘How beautiful the things from the sea!’) They enticed her to come close and taste fresh shrimp for free. We learned it was advantageous to send Marina to buy bread or gelato. The store owners always loaded her up with extra helpings, just because!”

Life doesn’t always give handouts. “Our dream,” relates Ginger, “would be for the three of us sisters to appear together professionally in something like Mozart’s Così fan tutte” (Dorabella, Fiordiligi, and Despina). “Or, maybe we’ll start a Utah-based, family opera company, or sing together for a record label.”

The Costa-Jacksons began acting on their dreams the year Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. Miriam, age 10, had caught the opera bug, and begged for lessons. She soon outgrew the tutelage of her first teacher—a member of their church. Then, the Costa-Jacksons asked Mormon Tabernacle Choir soprano, JoAnne Ottley for help. She guided the family to one she called “the Mother Superior of voice teachers in Utah,” Betty Jeanne Chipman. By 2003, the Utah Italian Community held a fundraiser to help the family send the girls to Italy to continue their vocal training.

That is, Ginger and Miriam trained. Marina, “being a middle child,” just wanted to dance. She took ballet lessons in Palermo, while her sisters studied with Maria Argento Rancatore, the mother and teacher of renowned soprano, Desirée Rancatore.

It wasn’t until three years later that Marina found her desire to sing. “I watched the way our family in Italy reacted to Ginger and Miriam singing, and really wanted to move people like that with my voice.”

In 2004, the General Director of the Utah Festival Opera, Dr. Michael Ballam, invited Ginger and Miriam to become the youngest opera singers the company has hired. Marina accepted a non-singing role. Ballam’s connection with Utah State University also lead to Miriam, and finally Marina, earning scholarships to study voice at that institution.

Ginger was the first to break into professional opera. Her nonnini and aunt in Palermo had scraped together an inheritance for Emilia, which became the seed money for Ginger to make a tour of international singing competitions in Italy. Ginger relates, “It was after a competition in Rome, in which I didn’t place, that Lenore Rosenberg of the Met’s Young Artist Program, invited me to audition for James Levine at the Met in New York.” The maestro and Rosenberg afterward invited the 19-year-old to enter the program.

KarimMerchantThe Costa Sisters