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Release: Immediate

Baritone Muriello and pianist/composer Thomas present UI faculty/guest recital March 5

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Baritone John Muriello and pianist/composer Richard Pearson Thomas will present a program of Thomas' music, including a re-telling of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" written specifically for Muriello, in a free recital at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 5 in Clapp Recital Hall on the University of Iowa campus.

The light-hearted program will also feature character pieces by Gilbert & Sullivan, Marc Blitzstein and William Bolcom.

A singer whose work has ranged from opera and operetta to concert and musical theater, Muriello joined the UI School of Music faculty last fall. This will be his first performance at the UI.

Muriello's work in operetta and musical theater has been extensive. He has most recently performed in the off-Broadway production of "Terra Incognita" by Roberto Sierra and as Alidoro in Rossini's "La Cenerentola" (Cinderella) with Skylight Opera Theatre in Milwaukee. He also appeared as Miss Sylvia Bills with the satirical La Gran Scena Opera di New York on tour in Australia and Germany. Upcoming engagements including performances as the Narrator and Mysterious Man in Sondheim's "Into the Woods" and Marcello in "La Boheme" next summer for Lyric Opera Cleveland.

"There will be nothing esoteric about this program," Muriello said of the March 5 recital. "Everything will be right out there for the audience to enjoy."

Thomas' abridged and condensed version of "A Christmas Carol" has the singer re-telling the familiar story. There are 10 different characters, all portrayed by the same singer, with characterization embedded in the music but also different voices for each of the characters.

"This piece is a lot of fun," Muriello said. "It has a humorous approach to the story without making fun of any of the characters."

The other Thomas work on the program is "Ossessione" (Obsession), a group of eight songs that were inspired by 17th-century Italian songs that are familiar to classically trained singers. The original songs, which are by different composers and have no musical connection, were selected for the dramatic possibilities of their texts. Thomas used the original Italian texts in his settings, as well as musical ideas from the 17th-century settings.

Muriello has performed operatic and musical theater roles with Opera Carolina, the Banff Centre in Canada, L'Opera Francais of New York, Lyric Opera Cleveland, Ohio Light Opera, Seaside Music Theater and the Southeastern Savoyards of Atlanta. This roles have ranged from Guglielmo in Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte" to Jupiter in Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld" to Voltaire in Bernstein's "Candide."

He was a winner in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions in North Carolina, in the Washington International Competition and the Louise D. McMahon International Song Competition in Oklahoma, and toured two seasons with the Mantovani Orchestra.

Thomas has composed extensively for theater, concert and film. His music for "What Became Known as . . . the Eleanor Affair" was awarded the prize for "Best Original Score" at the 1997 NYU Film Festival and his off-off Broadway musical, "Ladies in a Maze" was produced by Encompass Music Theatre.

In addition to performances by the Boston Pops and the Convent Garden Festival, his theatrical works have been staged by Houston Grand Opera, Chautauqua Opera, the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, the Banff Centre and the Skylight Opera Theatre. His pieces "AIDS Anxiety" was singled out for performance in Washington, D.C. at the 1992 Congressional Forum on the International HIV/AIDS Pandemic and appears on the CD "AIDS Quilt Songbook."

Thomas' educational operas for children have toured in the northeastern United States and western Canada. He is composer-in-residence at the Gold Opera/Young Audiences New York. An accomplished pianist, Thomas has performed with singers throughout the United States and Europe. He is a native of Montana and a graduate of the Eastman School of Music.

2/20/98