Tenor Jack Swanson Tackles a Recital in Four Languages for Houston Grand Opera

(L-R) Richard Bado and Jack Swanson in concert.
(L-R) Richard Bado and Jack Swanson in concert. Photo by Bend Production
Tenor Jack Swanson was supposed to be doing Rossini's La Cenerentola in January and February at Houston Grand Opera but those plans like many others were scuttled by COVID-19.

Instead he was offered and accepted the chance to film an HGO Digital installment of Live at the Cullen, a selection of songs in recital with HGO Director of Artistic Operations and Chorus Master Richard Bado that will begin airing this Friday.

And although he is known for performing works by Rossini and Donizetti, with the exception of one final song by Rossini, Swanson's program decided upon by himself and Bado, will present a variety of music by other composers.

He'll be singing Schumann’s Liederkreis, Opus 39 then songs from three English-language operas: "Candide’s Lament" from Candide by Leonard Bernstein, "Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal" by Roger Quilter and "Lonely House" from Street Scene by Kurt Weill. He will also perform "Tre sonetti di Petrarca" by Franz Liszt and "Que les destins prosperes" by Gioachino Rossini.

"We were really going for variety. This recital not only is it three different languages with the German, English and Italian and actually there’s an encore in French. So we did four of the languages. And they’re also extremely different in where the range is for the voice and even how the piano is played. The Schumann Liederkreisis is a lower more subtle but when you get to the Liszt sonnets they are huge and more of like a grand type of performing.

"We were really going for all over the map to show as much as we possibly could," he says. "Not only is it fun as a performer to get to stretch all of the limits of your voice. And I think Richard felt the same way on the piano. It's just really fun to find every aspect that yourvoice can do.

"And I think the audiences appreciate it. Sometimes you'll go to a recital and it's an hour long of kind of the same type of music, the same composer, the same range. I know as a listener myself I like to experience all different types of music."

Swanson, who received his Master of Music in Vocal Performance degree from Rice, is now based in Austin but has been spending a lot of time at his parents' house in Minnesota during the pandemic.

He began studying voice when he was 17 years old. "I hadn’t seen an opera and my voice teacher at the time introduced me to opera singers, one of the first being Luciano Pavarotti." Swanson decided he "wanted to make sounds like that."

He joined a group of high school students tha twas associated with Minnesota Opera. From there he got his undergrad at the University of Oklahoma where during his senior year he did a program with HGO's Young Artists where he met Stephen King, professor of voice at Rice and decided to go to grad school here to study with King.

Although his parents both have good voices and he grew up in a house filled with singing, Swanson said no one had pursued music as a career. In fact he considered other things such as law. An avid outdoorsman who enjoys fishing and hiking, Swanson considered entering a field that could scratch that itch.

But opera was the thing that really fit for him, he says. "And I'm glad I'm doing it now."

The initial airing of Jack Swanson's Live at the Cullen performance is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. March 12. It can be accessed through April 11 after that. Watch it on Marquee.TV or HGO.org/Digital. Free.
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