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Release: Immediate

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 II Berlin.

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" from "Carousel."

"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 Iowa City.

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 Hall.

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 Angeles.

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.