By Chris Willman
Updated April 13, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

As elegant a crooner as Costello is, For the Stars is still a case of beauty and beast when he shares five duets with mezzo-soprano perfection personified, von Otter, on this classical-pop crossover effort he’s helmed. Von Otter’s phrasing is too formal for some jazz-based numbers, but she’s a perfect fit on the musical-theater-ish tunes, from ABBA’s ”Like an Angel Passing Through My Room” to Tom Waits’ ”Take It With Me.” ”Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)” is particularly sublime, reaching even loftier climes than Brian Wilson’s falsetto could.

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