Jack Swanson as Edward Tulane

A native of Stillwater, Minnesota, tenor Jack Swanson has been hailed as one of the most exciting and in-demand new opera stars in the world, having spent the last few years traveling the globe and singing leading roles for prestigious companies like LA Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Oper Frankfurt, and Glyndebourne. All of us at MN Opera are especially excited to have Mr. Swanson here debuting the role of Edward Tulane. To us, he’s not just any young international opera star on the rise; he’s also an alumnus of Project Opera, our premiere training program for talented youth singers and we’re so happy to have him back where it all started. Recently, he sat down with us to talk about the process of creating a new character, how his time in Project Opera has influenced his current career, and what it’s like to finally be back singing on his home turf.

Describe Edward in three words.

Jack Swanson: This is a tricky one as Edward is definitely one of those characters who changes a lot through the story. But I think he is by nature a good listener. He’s caring and he’s also fiercely loyal.

What are some of the greatest joys and challenges of singing this role?

JS: I would say the greatest joy is the fact that no one has performed this role before, so there are no expectations from cast members, the creative team, or the audience. We all get to discover the character together and, in the end, I get to bring him to the stage for the first time ever! In the same vein, that’s a challenge. I‘m constantly trying something new during the rehearsal process. Sometimes it’ll work and sometimes it won’t, so I spend a lot of time outside of rehearsal thinking about what I want to try the next day.  

Is there a particular theme in this piece that resonates with you and that you hope will resonate with audiences?

JS: “When you truly listen to people, compassion becomes inevitable.” What I mean by that is it’s easy for us to see people, how they dress, or who they choose to spend their time with and jump to conclusions before hearing their stories. Edward meets all kinds of people during his “Miraculous Journey” and because he is a great listener, he becomes much more compassionate as the journey goes on.  

When did you first know that you wanted to be a professional opera singer?

JS: I knew I wanted to be an opera singer the first day I stepped into rehearsals for La bohéme with MN Opera in 2010.  I was a part of the chorus and singing the part of the Prune Seller.  I’ll never forget the thrill of being on that stage, the people who were a part of that show, and the music itself.  All of those things ultimately led to me pursuing an opera career.   

We’re very excited to have you here for a number of reasons, but especially because you’re an alum of our Project Opera program. What is one of your favorite memories from your time in Project Opera?

JS: To be honest, some of my favorite moments were just talking with my fellow Project Opera friends about singing, technique, and our favorite operas.  One memory that sticks with me was how much fun I had performing in the Opera Scenes program. I sang Tamino in a very funny duet from The Magic Flute.

Are there things you learned in Project Opera that you still use today?

JS: I would say that one of the biggest lessons I learned from Project Opera is to be prepared! Preparation is key when it comes to a long and fulfilling career. Another lesson I learned is to always BE ON TIME!  

What is the craziest or funniest thing that’s ever happened to you during a performance?

JS: During the challenging duet with Belcore in Oslo Opera’s production of L’elisir d’amore a few years ago, I needed to jump rope during one of the most difficult passages. By the final performance, I got up to 12 jumps!

What are some things you’re excited to see or do while you’re back in Minnesota?

JS: I’m really looking forward to spending more time in the Twin Cities. Although I am from Minnesota, most of my time as a teenager was spent in Stillwater. I really don’t know the Twin Cities as well as I would like to, but I hear there is some incredible food that I have to try. I am always excited for good food.  

Don’t miss out on Prestini’s Edward Tulane when hits the Ordway stage for 5 performances, March 21-29, 2020. Get your tickets at mnopera.org/edward-tulane/.

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