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UI School of Music will present Mendelssohn's oratorio 'Elijah' April 8

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Symphony, combined choruses from the UI School of Music, and faculty and guest soloists will present Mendelssohn's "Elijah," one of the major choral works of the 19th century, in a free performance at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 8 in Hancher Auditorium on the UI campus.

William Hatcher, UI director of choral activities, will conduct the performance, which will be sung in English. Soloists will be School of Music faculty members baritone Stephen Swanson in the principal role of Elijah, soprano Rachel Joselson and mezzo-soprano Katherine Eberle; guest artist Douglas Ahlstedt, tenor; and UI graduate student Margaret Lanning, soprano.

The choral groups from the School of Music participating in the performance of "Elijah" are Kantorei, directed by William Hatcher; Camerata Singers, directed by Richard Bloesch; the University Choir, directed by Melanie Jacobson; and the Women's Chorale, directed by Kelly Bjugan.

The performance will be preceded by a discussion led by musicologist Roberta Marvin at 7 p.m. in the Hancher Green Room.

Mendelssohn first thought of writing an oratorio about the Biblical prophet "Elijah" in the summer of 1844. The score was actually written in the spring and summer of 1846 for a premiere at the Birmingham (England) Music Festival in August of the same year. Mendelssohn had made many concert trips to England, where he was extremely popular, and the premiere performance of "Elijah" brought wild acclaim to the composer. The audience demanded that eight sections -- four choruses and four arias -- be repeated during the performance. This was one the last triumphs of the composer, who died only a few months later in November 1846.

Mendelssohn composed "Elijah" to a German text written by a friend, Rev. Julius Schubring. William Bartholomew translated the German text into English for the original performances in England, and his text has frequently been used for performances in English-speaking countries.

In "Elijah," Mendelssohn created a vivid portrayal of the Biblical prophet and of the conflict between the followers of Jehovah and those of the pagan deity Baal. Mendelssohn once wrote that he "imagined Elijah as a real prophet through and through . . . Strong, zealous and yes, even bad-tempered, angry and brooding -- in contrast to the riff-raff, whether of the court or of the people, and indeed in contrast to almost the whole world -- and yet borne aloft as if on angels' wings."

Hatcher has served as director of choral activities at the UI School of Music since 1988. He directs the graduate choral conducting program, conducts choral ensembles in the School of Music and frequently appears as music director of productions by the UI Opera Theater. 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 period. Hatcher has published materials on choral skills and choral arrangements, and he appears frequently as a choral clinician and festival choir director.

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 more than 70 roles in opera, operetta and musicals. He has sung on German, Austrian and Dutch radio broadcasts and has been a featured soloist in numerous European festivals.

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.

Ahlstedt began his singing career with the Columbus Boychoir, with whom he toured the United States and Canada. As a boy he sang the role of Miles in the American premiere of Benjamin Britten's "Turn of the Screw" and was selected by Leonard Bernstein for solo performances in Carnegie Hall.

After voice studies in college, Ahlstedt sang with San Francisco Opera's Western Opera Theater. A contract winner in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, he has sung leading roles at the Met . His European debut was at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Dusseldorf, where he also sang in the celebrated Rossini cycle of director Jean Pierre Ponelle. He has had guest engagements throughout Europe and South America and appeared in several television broadcasts of opera, including "Live from the Met" broadcasts on PBS.

Before joining the School of Music faculty in the fall of 1997, Joselson spent more than 10 years in Europe performing operatic roles in guest appearances and engagements at theaters in Darmstadt, Hamburg, Essen and Basel. As guest she performed as soloist with opera companies and orchestras in Europe and the United States. 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.

A native of Akron, Ohio, Eberle has performed internationally in opera, concert and solo recitals. Her solo compact disc of songs of women composers, "From a Woman's Perspective," has been issued by Albany Records on the Vienna Modern Masters Label. She was also soloist on a CD of the Mozart "Requiem" released by the Interlochen Center for the Arts. Eberle made her New York debut at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in 1993. In 1994 and '95 she toured as a musical ambassador for the United States Information Agency, performing in South American and Korea.

Marvin received a doctorate in musicology from Brandeis University in 1992. Her articles on the music of Verdi and Rossini have appeared in numerous scholarly publications. She is a contributor to the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and the New Grove Dictionary of Opera, and she is editing Verdi's "I masnadieri" for the critical edition of Verdi's works for the University of Chicago Press. Marvin is also writing a book about the education, teachings and philosophy of Verdi entitled "Verdi the Student -- Verdi the Teacher" and has plans to complete a textbook for teaching opera to undergraduates for Schirmer Books.

3/27/98