CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Baritone Stephen Swanson sings operetta, cabaret and musical songs
'for fun' Feb. 24
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Baritone Stephen Swanson and pianist Darlene Lawrence,
faculty members at the UI School of Music, will present a program of songs
from operetta, German cabaret and American musicals at 8 p.m. Tuesday,
Feb. 24 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.
The program, which Swanson says he selected for "fun rather than
art," will be free and open to the public. Although he has appeared
in other local performances, including the UI Opera Theater production
of "La Boheme" two years ago, this will be Swanson's first solo
recital since joining the UI faculty in 1994.
The program will be in three parts. The first, songs from European operettas,
will include songs from the familiar "Merry Widow" by Franz Lehar,
alongside pieces that are popular in Europe but almost unknown in America,
including "Der Bettelstudent" (The beggar student) by Carl Milloecker
and "Countess Mariza" by Emmerich Kalman.
The second section will feature German cabaret songs, a genre that is
even less familiar to Americans. The songs are satirical, often bitingly
so, and sometimes risque. Although Swanson will sing them in German, texts
and translations will be provided so that the audience can appreciate the
texts as well as the music. The composers in the section include Ralph
Benatzky, an operetta composer whose wife also sang cabaret songs, and
Friedrich Hallaender, who owned the "Black Cat'" cabaret in pre-World-war
The final section will include selections from American musicals that
audiences will likely find more familiar: "Try to Remember" from
"The Fantasticks," off-Broadway's longest-running musical; "I
Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight" from "Camelot"; "Lonely
Town" from Leonard Bernstein's "On the Town"; and the "Soliloquy"
"This music is all just meant to be fun," Swanson said. "There's
nothing here that's profound.
"In putting together this program, I looked for music that was
entertaining rather than profound -- desserts rather than entrees. That
is not to say that these songs and arias are not worth an evening together
-- they are! -- but they will be digested better if the audience knows
what to expect.
"I have also stayed away from the mainstream. The composers in
the first two sections are well known in Germany and Austria, but are hardly
household words anywhere else. I hope that this unknown quality will bring
out the adventurous spirit in the audience. If I am successful, they will
get a feeling for the joyous elegance of turn-of-the century Vienna."
Swanson also went outside the mainstream in his selection from American
musicals. "I deliberately avoided the traditional songs sung by baritones
as romantic leads and looked for different sides of the singing actor on
the Broadway stage," he explained.
"If the concert reaches your heart and funny bone, I will have
achieved my purpose."
Swanson joined the faculty of the UI School of Music in 1994. For nearly
20 years before that date he had an active operatic career in Europe. During
that time his repertoire grew to more than 70 roles in opera, operetta
and musicals. He has sung on German, Austrian and Dutch radio broadcasts
and has been a featured soloist in European festivals including the Berliner
Festwochen, the Days of Contemporary Music in Dresden and the Festa Musica
Pro in Assisi, Italy.
Swanson has also had an extensive career as a concert singer, appearing
as featured soloist with many U.S. orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony
under Sir Georg Solti, Raphael Fruehbeck de Burgos and Margaret Hillis.
He has recorded Mendelssohn's "St. Paul" and Ullmann's "Der
Kaiser von Atlantis." Since coming to Iowa City, he has appeared in
UI Opera Theater productions and performances of the Chamber Singers of
Swanson holds undergraduate degrees from North Park College in Chicago
and a master's degree in music from Northwestern University. He made his
professional debut in 1970, singing in Arnold Schoenberg's opera "Moses
and Aron" with the Chicago Symphony in Chicago and New York's Carnegie
Lawrence received her doctorate from the University of Southern California.
She has accompanied many prominent California artists and has toured under
the management of Sol Hurok. She has served as accompanist for the Oregon
Bach Festival with noted conductor Helmuth Rilling and was selected to
accompany the 1,000-voice choir for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los
In addition to her work as an accompanist, Lawrence is a published composer/arranger,
and she has worked as a studio singer in film, television and the recording
industry. Since 1989 she has been on the faculty of the UI School of Music,
where she teaches song literature and is coach/accompanist in the voice
and opera areas.