CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: March 26, 1999
Muriello combines French art songs, American love songs on April 8 recital
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Baritone John Muriello will perform both French art songs
and a group of American songs about love on a University of Iowa faculty recital
at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 8 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.
Muriello will perform with pianist Darlene Lawrence. Their performance will
be free and open to the public.
For the first, more "serious," half of the recital program, Muriello and
Lawrence will perform two cycles of songs, "Le Promenoir des deux amants"
(The promenade of two lovers) by Claude Debussy and "Histoires naturelles"
(Natural histories) by Maurice Ravel. The second half of the program, lightheartedly
titled "Blah Blah Blah and other songs about love," will feature works by
a variety of American composers, including George and Ira Gershwin, Stephen
Sondheim, Marc Blitzstein and William Bolcom.
Also included will be three songs by composer Richard Pearson Thomas, who
accompanied Muriello in his previous faculty recital at the UI last March.
Together they presented a program of Thomas' works, including an abridged
version of Charles Dickens' familiar "A Christmas Carol."
The combination of European art songs with American Broadway and pop styles,
as unconventional as it is for voice recitals, is a natural for Muriello.
A classically trained singer, he has appeared professionally in performances
from opera and oratorio to musical comedy, and previous appearances at the
UI have spanned an equally wide range of styles.
Typifying his versatility, Muriello performed last summer for Lyric Opera
Cleveland as the Narrator and Mysterious Man in Sondheim's musical "Into the
Woods" and Marcello in the traditionally operatic "La Boheme," and he most
recently sang the role of the Sacristan in Cedar Rapids Opera Theater's performances
of "Tosca." Last fall he made his directing debut with the UI School of Music
production of the musical comedy "The Fantasticks."
Debussy's "Promenoir" cycle is based on fragments of an elegiac poem by Tristan
L'Hermite, a 17th-century courtier and writer who is considered a precursor
to the 19th- and 20th-century Symbolist poets. In the short cycle, the poet
describes a pastoral scene, then invites his beloved to share the sublime
beauty of the moment. Afraid that his ardor might destroy the delicate moment,
he merely asks for a token of her love by allowing him to drink from her hands.
Debussy's music, Muriello says, "exquisitely captures the elegance and preciosity
of the language of the poem."
Ravel's cycle created a scandal at its premiere in 1907. With text settings
that use the inflections and elisions of everyday French speech, the songs
were attacked by critics for their lack of traditional melody. The five songs
were selected by Ravel from more than 80 poems in Jules Renard's "Histoires
naturelles," published in 1896 and later illustrated by Toulouse-Lautrec and
Bonnard. Ravel set the texts realistically, with careful musical characterizations
of the animals portrayed in the texts: the peacock, cricket, swan, kingfisher
and guinea hen.
The "songs about love" of the second half of Muriello's program cover a wide
range of moods and light musical styles. They include "Blah Blah Blah" --
the song that gives this portion of the program its provocative name -- by
George and Ira Gershwin, the classic Rodgers and Hart "Bewitched," Stephen
Sondheim's very contemporary and neurotically inflected"The-God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me-Oh-You-Do-I'll-See-You-Later-Blues,"
Thomas' lighthearted riffs on romance, and another half dozen songs as well.
Muriello joined the UI School of Music faculty in the fall of 1997. He has
performed operatic and musical theater roles with Opera Carolina, the Banff
Centre in Canada, L'Opera Francais of New York, Skylight Opera Theater, Lyric
Opera Cleveland, Ohio Light Opera, Seaside Music Theater and the Southeastern
Savoyards of Atlanta. His roles have ranged from Guglielmo in Mozart's "Cosi
fan tutte" to Voltaire in Bernstein's "Candide."
He has performed in concert and recital throughout the Midwest and the Southeast,
singing in performances of Vaughan Williams' "Five Mystical Songs" and "Hodie,"
the Brahms "Requiem" and the Bach Mass in B minor.
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.
Lawrence received her doctorate from the University of Southern California.
She has accompanied many prominent California artists and has toured under
the management of Sol Hurok. She has served as accompanist for the Oregon
Bach Festival with noted conductor Helmuth Rilling and was selected to accompany
the 1,000-voice choir for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
In addition to her work as an accompanist, Lawrence is a published composer/arranger,
and she has worked as a studio singer in film, television and the recording
industry. Since 1989 she has been on the faculty of the UI School of Music,
where she teaches song literature and is coach/accompanist in the voice and
Thomas has composed extensively for theater, concert and film. 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
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.