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Release: Jan. 14, 2000

Soprano Rachel Joselson to perform Beethoven, Wagner Jan. 25

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Rachel Joselson, who had a significant European operatic career before joining the faculty of the University of Iowa School of Music, will combine operatic and song repertoire for a recital program that she will present at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus

Joselson, a soprano, will perform with the pianist Matt Castle, who is coach-accompanist for the UI Opera Theater. Their performance will be free and open to the public.

From her operatic repertoire, Joselson will perform Leonore's recitative and aria from Act I of Beethoven's "Fidelio" and Ariadne's Monologue from Richard Strauss' "Ariadne auf Naxos." From the traditional song repertoire she will sing six songs by the late-19th-century Viennese composer Hugo Wolf. And spanning the two categories, she will sing Richard Wagner's "Fuenf Gedichte von Mathilde Wesendonck" (Five poems by Mathilde Wesendonck), for woman's voice and piano.

Often performed in a setting for voice and orchestra, Wagner's "Wesendonck Lieder" (Wesendonck songs) occupy a famous place in operatic history. Written while the composer was in the middle of his monumental "Ring" cycle of four musical dramas, they are mostly closely connected with another of Wagner's works, "Tristan und Isolde."

In the 1850s, Wagner moved into a cottage on the property of the wealthy Swiss businessman Otto Wesendonck. Wagner may or may not have had an affair with Otto's wife, Mathilde, depending upon which scholar you want to believe, but the two certainly had an intense and romantic relationship that became the inspiration for Wagner's interest in the story of Tristan and Isolde.

Wagner began work on Act I of "Tristan und Isolde" in 1856, and some time later Mathilde gave him the set of poems she had written in imitation of Wagner's "Tristan" libretto. Wagner later set the poems as songs, in a musical style very much like that of "Tristan." In fact, two of the songs are considered preliminary studies for portions of "Tristan." In this way, the songs occupy a middle ground between Wagner's powerful operas and the more intimate style of German song.

In program notes she has written for the recital, Joselson notes that the piano version of the songs provides singers an opportunity for singing Wagner, but without the difficulties of the composer's notoriously demanding operatic roles.

"These songs are colorfully rich and expressive, but texturally contrasting with the majority of Wagner's works, as they are written for voice and piano rather than orchestral accompaniment," she wrote. "Therefore, a less sustained and powerful vocal production is demanded, a factor that I find delightful and refreshing as compared to the customary amount of vocal power and volume required for performing Wagner's operatic works."

"Fidelio," Beethoven's only opera, is an opera about love, loyalty, courage in the face of personal and political oppression, and heroism. Leonore, the leading female role, has disguised herself as a man under the name Fidelio in order to rescue her husband, Florestan, who has been unjustly imprisoned in a dungeon.

In Act I of the opera, Leonore has learned that the overseer of the prison, Don Pizarro, has planned to murder her husband in order to hide his own crimes and corruption. In her recitative and aria, which Joselson will sing to open the recital, Leonore/Fidelio proclaims her determination to save her husband, and calls on the strength of married love to give her hope and illumination.

Before joining the School of Music faculty in the fall of 1997, Joselson spent 11 years in Europe engaged at opera theaters in Darmstadt, Hamburg, Essen and Basel. As guest she performed as soloist with opera companies and orchestras in Aachen, Barcelona, Berlin, Bilbao, Bonn, Braunschweig, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Madison, Essen, Brussels, Kiel, Gelsenkirchen, St. Gallen, Trier, and New Brunswick. For the 1995-96 season, she had her first engagement at the Metropolitan Opera, and was engaged by London's Covent Garden for their 1992 Japan tour.

She has performed many of the major soprano roles in the repertoire, including Leonore in Beethoven's "Fidelio," in her most recent debut at the 1999 Gars, Austria, Summer Festival; Mimi in Puccini's "La Boheme," Micaela in Bizet's "Carmen," Melisande in Debussy's "Pelleas et Melisande," Donna Elvira in Mozart's "Don Giovanni" and Eva in Wagner's "Meistersingers of Nuremberg." She was featured in the 1998 recording of Gian Carlo Menotti's "Help! Help! The Globolinks!"

An accomplished singer, writer and teacher, Castle is serving as visiting coach-accompanist for the UI Opera Theater. His singing roles in opera and musical comedy have included Henrik Egerman in "A Little Night Music," Nemorino in "The Elixir Of Love," Edvard Grieg in "Song Of Norway," Archibald Craven in "The Secret Garden," Marco Palmieri in "The Gondoliers" and Rooster in "Annie," as well as dozens of cabaret and dinner theater appearances.

As an accompanist, Castle has played in hundreds of recitals and theatrical productions. He also has extensive experience as a musical director, with credits in professional, university, community and school theaters. His compositions represent many genres, ranging from chamber music to musical theater and opera. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., and a master's degree from Northern Illinois University.

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