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Elvis' opera: Pop star collaborates again

Elvis Costello collaborates with opera singer Anne Sofie von Otter on "For the Stars"  

From Jodi Ross

(CNN) -- Elvis Costello continues to smash down the walls of perception.

The singer-songwriter has been doing this since the days in the late '70s when he stewed together influences ranging from pop to punk to folk to create a defining new-wave sound that's still credible today.

In the late '80s, he teamed up with former Beatle Paul McCartney for another ground-breaking sweep through American pop, capitalized by the hit "Veronica."

By 1998, Costello was at it again, collaborating with composer Burt Bacharach on "Painted From Memory." Once again, it was the melding together of different music worlds, and like most of Costello's work, it received high praise.

CNN's Jodi Ross talks to Elvis Costello about his latest project (June 20)

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And for Costello's next trick, he's going to the opera. His latest release pairs his music-producer gifts with mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter.

Costello first heard von Otter at a concert he attended with his wife. He recalls the feeling he had upon hearing her sing.

"You just know it's a voice that you're going to want to hear over and over again," says Costello. "We sent some flowers to Anne Sofie and this created curiosity and eventually we were invited backstage."

The ultimate result of that first meeting is the new release titled "For the Stars," a mix of somewhat obscure songs by popular artists like the Beach Boys, the Beatles, and ABBA.

This is mezzo-soprano von Otter's first attempt at pop music  

It's the first time von Otter has tried her hand at pop, though she's certainly familiar with the style of music.

"I like pop, I like music of the '60s. That's when I grew up and that's what I listened to all the time in my teens," von Otter says. "A lot of classical singers do this sort of thing, so I'm not the first one."

The recording sessions with Costello were intense -- 26 songs in just 12 days.

Costello says he was walking a fine line by packing in so much music in so little time.

"When you're recording like that, for a producer it's like holding your breath for 12 days because so many of the performances are this close to something magical and some small flaw would creep in which breaks that mood," says Costello.

Costello says in his career of collaborations, this is tops.

"I really can't think of anything I'd rather do in terms of collaboration more than this," he says.

In today's world of pop candy chart-toppers, this album, says Costello, is an anomaly.

"Christina Aguilera is not having sleepless nights about whether this record is creeping up behind her on the charts," Costello says.

And that's OK with him.

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