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Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.

Sound Bites: Jack Swanson

A Minnesota tenor starts off the New Year with his LA Opera debut.
by F. Paul Driscoll 

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Photograph by Dario Acosta
Grooming by Affan Graber Malik
© Dario Acosta
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Tenor Jack Swanson, set to sing Bernstein’s Candide this month in L.A.
© Dario Acosta

JACK SWANSON makes his role debut as the title character in Leonard Bernstein’s Candide this month at L.A. Opera. It’s an assignment that the twenty-five-year-old tenor from Stillwater, Minnesota, calls “a perfect opportunity. I honestly can’t imagine any other thing that L.A. Opera would be doing that I’d be ready to sing at this point. Part of me can’t wait to get there and start work—and part of me is freaking out a little bit!”

Swanson spent his undergraduate years at the University of Oklahoma and received his master’s degree from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. His says his two seasons as a Santa Fe Opera apprentice were “eye-openers. I was introduced to a very, very high level of singing and performing. My first summer, I was in four of the five operas, including Dr. Sun Yat-sen, which was in Mandarin, and the chorus part in that opera is not small. Every night we’d have these Mandarin Chinese parties to study the language and get the text into our heads—and we all ended up as really close friends. It was stressful, but it was fun. That summer, I had a very small role—pretty much a speaking part—in Le Rossignol, and Erin Morley was the Nightingale in that show. And I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, Erin Morley is like the pinnacle of sopranos,’ and now I’m going to get to sing Candide opposite her Cunegonde in L.A. That’s kind of a cool twist, isn’t it?”

Swanson’s lithe, sweet sound is ideal for the Rossini repertoire that’s on his calendar this season—Almaviva for Glyndebourne Touring Company and Lyric Opera of Kansas City; the tenor soloist in Stabat Mater for the Choral Arts Society of Washington at the Kennedy Center; and Lindoro in next summer’s revival of L’Italiana in Algeri at Santa Fe. “Lindoro has always been at the top of my list—and now I have the opportunity to sing it at the opera house that feels most like home,” he says. Other items on Swanson’s wish list are Rodrigo in Rossini’s Otello—“that is such a fun sing in a great opera”—and “another crack at” Donizetti’s Nemorino, which he first sang as an undergraduate. “I’m dying to do Ferrando [in Così Fan Tutte] as well. Dying. I’ve auditioned with ‘Un aura amorosa’ since I was twenty—it’s never my starting aria, but audition judges always ask for it. And I love singing it!” spacer 



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