Introducing the James Schwabacher Collection


A tireless champion of vocal music, James Schwabacher (1920-2006) was extremely active in the San Francisco Bay area, not only as a performer, but as a teacher, vocal coach, and radio and television host. Perhaps most significantly, Schwabacher founded the Merola Opera Program, an annual workshop for aspiring singers, in 1957, San Francisco Performances in 1980, and the Schwabacher Debut Recital Series in 1983. The Schwabacher name belongs to one of San Francisco's more prestigious families: Schwabacher-Frey was a major West Coast printer and stationer, and Schwabacher and Company was a successful investment banking firm. His grandmother Carrie, who was a Fleishhacker before marriage, was a composer and pianist, and James grew up surrounded by music. Scrapbooks reveal regular attendance at San Francisco Opera performances, long before he made it to the SF Opera stage himself.

After graduating from Cal in 1941, Schwabacher taught briefly at Stanford, where he conducted the Glee Club and sang in the West Coast premiere of Britten's Peter Grimes and alongside Dorothy Warenskjold in her debut in Der Freischütz. In 1948 Schwabacher joined the San Francisco Opera, playing fourteen roles over four seasons. Schwabacher would soon move away from opera, however, and the majority of his years performing were in recitals and oratorios. His singing career is most notable for a twenty-five year run as the Evangelist in The Passions of St. John and Matthew in the Carmel Bach Festival.

The James Schwabacher Collection consists of sound recordings, correspondence, scores, scrapbooks, clippings, programs, teaching material and other papers. View the finding aid here.

The Collection was processed under the auspices of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

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