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Ruth Ann Swenson

Biography

Born: August 25, 1959; New York, NY  
Lyric soprano Ruth Ann Swenson attracted attention from the moment of her 1983 professional debut in San Francisco. The determination evident in her Despina in that production was a recurrent thread throughout her developing career, preparing her to both enjoy the rewards of celebrity and also accept its responsibilities. The blonde, very pretty young singer returned to San Francisco to sing a concentrated yet rewardingly diverse repertory. Such Read more roles as Gilda, Pamina, Nannetta, Ines (in Meyerbeer's L'Africaine), and Dorinda in Handel's Orlando reflect a penchant for variety while avoiding roles that were vocally inappropriate. Her always-rounded instrument filled out during the two decades following her first appearances, yet she moved cautiously in adding to her catalog of heroines. As the new millennium approached, such roles as Rosina reflected a new amplitude in the middle and lower registers while testifying to a still easy top range. Swenson also began investigating somewhat heavier parts, such as Amelia in Simon Boccanegra, the title role in Maria Stuarda, and Mozart's Countess.

Nurtured by the San Francisco Opera, Swenson also enjoyed recognition elsewhere beginning almost immediately. Her European debut took place in 1985 at Geneva, where she once again essayed Despina. Thereafter came engagements at the Salzburg Festival and at the Munich Staatsoper (where her introductory role again was Mozart, but this time the far more difficult Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail). Paris audiences heard her Euridice at the Theatre des Champs Élysées and her Susanna at the Opera-Bastille. Nannetta served for her successful Chicago debut in 1988. When Swenson made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1991, it was as Zerlina, one of her many "ina" roles, others being Adina, Despina, Norina, Rosina, and Amina. Critics welcomed her full and supple voice and winsome appearance. Since that time, Swenson has been a Metropolitan regular, heard in such other roles as Gilda, Lucia di Lammermoor, Zerbinetta, Gounod's Juliet, Massenet's Manon, and the heroines in Les Contes D'Hoffmann and Musetta.

During the 1994 - 1995 Chicago Lyric Opera season, Swenson returned for Ann Truelove in Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress. She won high praise from English critics when she sang a poised and full-voiced Semele at her 1996 Covent Garden debut. While Swenson has been charged with an occasional lack of dramatic fire, audiences and critics alike have been pleased by her thorough preparation and professionalism and the lovely sound she offers. Interpretations are invariably well thought out and presented with great attention to detail, while her singing is consistently focused and polished to a high gloss. A tendency in the mid-'90s for the voice to sound somewhat over-weighted was checked before it became a problem. Within a short time, her instrument sounded more firmly concentrated and well able to accommodate its expanded size.

Among Swenson's recordings are her several solo discs and two especially attractive interpretations in complete opera performances. Her Juliet is well-balanced between boldness and reticence and very well-sung. As Musetta, she casts fresh light on a figure frequently played as a caricature. Swenson, instead, is engagingly saucy and offers one of the best-sung performances of the role ever committed to disc. Read less
Browse 1-21 of 21 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Voices Of Italian Opera
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 40509 Release Date: 07/31/2012   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Vincenzo Bellini,  Gaetano Donizetti,  Gioachino Rossini,  Giuseppe Verdi  ... 
    Performer:  Maria Callas,  Edita Gruberova,  Margherita Carosio,  Francesco Meli  ... 
    Conductor:  Tullio Serafin,  Kurt Eichhorn,  Anatole Fistoulari,  Evelino Pidò  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,  Munich Radio Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $19.99
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  • 2.
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 828662 Release Date: 11/01/2011   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  George Frideric Handel,  Henry Purcell,  Jean-Philippe Rameau  ... 
    Performer:  Nancy Argenta,  Crispian Steele-Perkins,  Gudrun Jahn,  Barbara Hendricks  ... 
    Conductor:  Gyorgy Fischer,  Kirk Trevor,  Louis Langrée,  Bernard Haitink  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian State Opera Orchestra,  Munich Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Paris National Opera Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $19.99
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  • 3.
    Puccini: La Boheme (Highlights) / Pappano, Alagna, Vaduva, Hampson, Swenson, Ramey, Philharmonia
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 94819 Release Date: 06/21/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Thomas Hampson,  Roberto Alagna,  Leontina Vaduva,  Ruth Ann Swenson  ... 
    Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
    CD: $12.99
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  • 4.
    Essential Puccini
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 07139 Release Date: 02/15/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Alfredo Kraus,  Mirella Freni,  Nicolai Gedda,  Roberto Alagna  ... 
    Conductor:  James Levine,  Thomas Schippers,  Antonio Pappano,  Anton Guadagno  ... 
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  • 5.
    James Levine - Celebrating 40 Years At The Met [32 CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 1135701354 Release Date: 12/07/2010   Number of Discs: 32
    Composer:  Alban Berg,  Hector Berlioz,  Claude Debussy,  John Harbison  ... 
    Performer:  David Kuebler,  James Courtney,  Hanna Schwarz,  Clifton Forbis  ... 
    Conductor:  James Levine
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra,  Metropolitan Opera Chorus
    CD: $199.99
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  • 6.
    Offenbach: Les Contes d'Hoffmann / Lopez-Cobos, Terfel, Swenson, Shicoff
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 107027 Release Date: 10/26/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Jacques Offenbach
    Performer:  Désirée Rancatore,  Nora Gubisch,  Alain Vernhes,  Susanne Mentzer  ... 
    Conductor:  Jesús Lopez-Cobos
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris National Opera Chorus,  Paris National Opera Orchestra
    DVD: $39.99
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  • 7.
    Meyerbeer: L'africaine / Arena, Verrett, Domingo
    Label: Kultur Video   Catalog: 8 Release Date: 04/28/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giacomo Meyerbeer
    Performer:  Michael Devlin,  Justino Diaz,  Placido Domingo,  Shirley Verrett  ... 
    Conductor:  Maurizio Arena
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Opera Chorus,  San Francisco Opera Orchestra
    On sale! $29.99
    DVD: $26.99
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  • 8.
    Puccini 2008 - Nessun Dorma / Callas, Te Kanawa, Carreras, Domingo, Alagna, Et Al
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 17620 Release Date: 10/28/2008   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Roberto Alagna,  Renata Scotto,  Alfredo Kraus,  Mario Sereni  ... 
    Conductor:  Antonio Pappano,  James Levine,  Thomas Schippers,  Anton Guadagno  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  National Philharmonic Orchestra,  Rome Opera Teatro Reale Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $25.98
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  • 9.
    Mozart: Die Entführung Aus Dem Serail / Swenson, Gelmetti
    Label: Euroarts   Catalog: 2055018 Release Date: 04/18/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Hans-Peter Blochwitz,  Manfred Fink,  Malin Hartelius,  Ruth Ann Swenson  ... 
    Conductor:  Gianluigi Gelmetti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
    DVD: $29.99
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  • 10.
    Metropolitan Opera Gala - James Levine's 25th Anniversary
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 000460209 Release Date: 11/22/2005  
    Composer:  Richard Wagner,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Charles Gounod,  Richard Strauss  ... 
    Performer:  Renée Fleming,  Dame Kiri Te Kanawa,  Jerry Hadley,  Bryn Terfel  ... 
    Conductor:  James Levine
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra,  Metropolitan Opera Chorus
    DVD: $39.99
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  • 11.
    Cristal - Glass Music Through The Ages / Dennis James
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 89047 Release Date: 01/15/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Fred Schnaubelt,  Johann Adolf Hasse,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Alessandro Scarlatti  ... 
    Performer:  Dennis [glass armonica] James,  Véronique Dietschy,  Lawrence Dutton,  Philip Setzer  ... 
    Conductor:  Daniel Cuiller
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stradivaria Ensemble,  Emerson String Quartet
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    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 12.
    Con Amore - Italian Opera Arias / Ruth Ann Swenson, Et Al
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 56764 Release Date: 01/11/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini,  Gaetano Donizetti,  Giuseppe Verdi,  Vincenzo Bellini
    Performer:  Ruth Ann Swenson,  Karen Vaughan,  Timothy Jones,  Moray Welsh
    Conductor:  Julius Rudel
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
    CD: $15.99
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  • 13.
    Endless Pleasure - Handel & Mozart Arias / Swenson, Mackerras
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 56672 Release Date: 11/03/1998   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  George Frideric Handel
    Performer:  Ruth Ann Swenson,  Anthony Robson,  Lisa Beznosiuk,  Margaret Faultless  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
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  • 14.
    The Only Opera Cd You'll Ever Need
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 68823 Release Date: 10/14/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Engelbert Humperdinck,  Gioachino Rossini,  Ruggero Leoncavallo,  Richard Wagner  ... 
    Performer:  Anna Moffo,  Helen Donath,  Roberta Peters,  Robert Merrill  ... 
    Conductor:  Kurt Eichhorn,  Erich Leinsdorf,  Lorin Maazel,  Eugene Ormandy  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra,  Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $3.99
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  • 15.
    Essential Operetta / Tucker, Della Casa, Reardon, Et Al
    Label: Sony Classical Essential Classics   Catalog: 63059 Release Date: 07/01/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franz Lehár,  Franz von Suppé,  Carl Zeller,  George Forrest  ... 
    Performer:  Richard Tucker,  Lisa Della Casa,  John Reardon,  Helena Scott  ... 
    Conductor:  Franz Allers,  Lehman Engel,  Skitch Henderson,  Paul Gemignani
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbia Symphony Orchestra,  American Opera Society Chorus,  American Opera Society Orchestra  ... 
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 16.
    I Carry Your Heart / Ruth Ann Swenson, Warren Jones
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 56158 Release Date: 11/26/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gioachino Rossini,  Fernando J. Obradors,  Pier Francesco Cavalli,  John Woods Duke  ... 
    Performer:  Ruth Ann Swenson,  Warren Jones,  Charles Neidich
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 17.
    Puccini: La Boheme / Pappano, Alagna, Vaduva, Hampson
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 56120 Release Date: 10/22/1996   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Ruth Ann Swenson,  Samuel Ramey,  Simon Keenlyside,  Leontina Vaduva  ... 
    Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Voices,  Philharmonia Orchestra,  London Oratory Junior Choir
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  • 18.
    James Levine's 25th Anniversary - Metropolitan Opera Gala
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 449177 Release Date: 10/15/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Johann Strauss Jr.,  Richard Strauss,  Jacques Offenbach  ... 
    Performer:  Grace Bumbry,  Karita Mattila,  Håkan Hagegård,  Anne Sofie von Otter  ... 
    Conductor:  James Levine
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
    Recommendation
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  • 19.
    Gounod: Romeo et Juliette / Slatkin, Domingo, Swenson
    Label: Rca Victor Red Seal   Catalog: 68440 Release Date: 04/16/1996   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Charles Gounod
    Performer:  Ruth Ann Swenson,  Susan Graham,  Sarah Walker,  Placido Domingo  ... 
    Conductor:  Leonard Slatkin
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Bavarian Radio Chorus
    Recommendation
    On sale! $33.98
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  • 20.
    Positively Golden - Coloratura Arias / Ruth Ann Swenson
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 54827 Release Date: 08/16/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giacomo Meyerbeer,  Vincenzo Bellini,  Gaetano Donizetti,  Charles Gounod
    Performer:  Ruth Ann Swenson
    Conductor:  Nicola Rescigno
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
    Recommendation
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 21.
    Kismet / 1991 Studio Cast
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 46438 Release Date: 11/15/1991   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Forrest
    Performer:  Mandy Patinkin,  Ruth Ann Swenson,  Julia Migenes,  Jerry Hadley  ... 
    Conductor:  Paul Gemignani
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
    CD not available
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