CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: July 9, 1999
UI Opera Theater presents Benjamin Britten's Albert
Herring for its summer production
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Opera Theater
will present "Albert Herring," Benjamin Britten's wise and gentle comic opera
about a small-town boy's rite of passage, in performances at 8 p.m. Friday,
July 23, and 2 p.m. Sunday, July 25, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.
UI Director of Choral Activities William Hatcher, in his
final appearances before he retires from the university, will conduct the
performances. Stage direction will be by Stephen Swanson, a member of the
voice faculty of the School of Music.
Set designs are by Margaret Wenk of the UI Performing
Arts Production Unit. Costumes were designed by Lelia Barton for Casta Diva
Costumes. Lighting is by David Thayer, professor emeritus of theatre arts.
"This is a story about universal themes -- growing up
in a small town and the conflicts between the generations," Swanson said.
"It takes place in Loxford, an English village where the older generation
is concerned about the moral decline of the younger.
"It is one of the most successful comic operas I know
and one that is just wonderful for the whole family."
As the opera begins, the pompous local busybody Lady Billows
and the other leading figures of the town discover there are no suitable candidates
for the honor of Queen of the annual May Festival. When the last name has
been crossed off the list and Lady Billows laments that there are no virgins
in Loxford, Superintendent Budd of the local police responds that "Albert
Herring's clean as new-mown hay." And so Albert -- the shy and somewhat backward
greengrocers assistant -- is chosen as May King.
But his unexpected celebrity and the days events
convince Albert that he is missing something in life. Inspired by Sid and
Nancy, a rebellious young couple who are unrestrained in their enjoyment of
life, he takes the prize money and goes "off on a bust," scandalizing the
town when he disappears but enjoying himself thoroughly. When the village
busybodies try to force him back into the role of mammas boy, Albert
stands up for his new-found independence, bidding "jolly good riddance" to
the May Kings orange-blossom crown as well as his mothers apron
Swanson said, "This is an ideal show for a group of young
singers because everyone has a chance to shine. Each of the characters has
a lot of music to sing and has a fully developed stage personality.
"The music is challenging for the singers, both vocally
and expressively, and it is accessible for the audience. The ensemble singing
is particularly stunning."
The student cast will feature Oliver Stoutner in the title
role; LeAnne Foust as Lady Billows; Jeff Kreuger as Mayor Upfold; and Jake
Endres and Jennifer Valle as Sid and Nancy. Meg Olsen, Rachel Andrews, Joss
Nichols and J.J. Hudson appear as various townspeople of Loxford.
Mrs. Herring, Albert's mother, will be sung by Barbara
Buddin, a former student who has appeared in past productions of the Opera
Theater, including lead roles in "Carmen," "Il Trovatore," "Cavalleria Rusticana,"
"Dido and Aeneas" and "Sister Angelica."
Hatcher has served as director of choral activities at
the UI School of Music since 1988. During his tenure at the UI he directed
the graduate choral conducting program, conducted choral ensembles in the
School of Music and frequently appeared as music director of productions by
the UI Opera Theater.
He was national president of the American Choral Directors
Association (ACDA) 1991-93, and presently is chair of the ACDA Endowment Trust.
Prior to coming to Iowa he taught at UCLA, the University of Washington and
Pasadena City College.
In the fall of 1996, his UI Kantorei participated in an
International Choral Competition in Tolosa, Spain. Prior to that honor, Kantorei
was one of only five choirs chosen to participate in the 1994 World Choral
Festival in Seoul, South Korea, where they presented concerts over an eight-day
In 1990 Kantorei performed the Mozart "Requiem" with the
St. Petersburg Philharmonic and other orchestras in the former Soviet Union,
and also gave concerts in Russia, Estonia and Finland. Kantorei has also performed
for regional and national conventions of the ACDA in 1992 and 1993.
Hatcher's concert tours with other collegiate ensembles
have included Europe, Greece, the British Isles, Canada, Hawaii and the western
United States. In 1985 his UCLA choir was selected as the sole U.S. representative
and was a prizewinner at the International Competition for Choirs in Spittal,
Austria. Hatcher was also coordinator and assistant director of the 1,000-voice
Olympic Honor Chorus, which sang for the opening and closing ceremonies of
the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, an event telecast to more than two billion
Hatcher has published materials on choral skills and choral
arrangements, and he appears frequently as a choral clinician and festival
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 91 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,
Swanson recently took part in the Viktor Ullman-Projekt
1998, a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of a composer who
died in the Nazi death camps. Swanson sang major roles in
Ullman's operas "Der zerbrochene Krug" and "Der Kaiser von Atlantis" at performances
in Europe, at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and at the Martyr's
Museum in Los Angeles.
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.
Tickets for "Albert Herring" are $12 ($7 for UI students,
youth under 18 and senior citizens), and are available from the Hancher Auditorium
Box Office. Hancher summer box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays.
From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance
within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319)
353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI
students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty
and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.
People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary
services should dial (319) 335-1158. The line is equipped with TDD for people
with hearing impairment who use that technology.
For information on UI arts events, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~uiowacr
on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/.