America is often cast as the land of freedom and opportunity, a place where the prevailing spirit is one of hope. But for almost a decade now, the emotion closest to the heart of the American people and culture has been fear. With its seeds in ignorance, and wilfully manipulated by the former political Establishment, this fear has eaten away at our sense of who we are.
Following President Obama’s speech in Cairo, we can at last begin to see a spirit of hopefulness returning to political dialogue. But the slow process of reopening the American mind cannot be conducted by politicians alone; it is a process that artists and performers such as myself have a responsibility to promote and engage in.
I began the Song of America project with the Library of Congress back in 2005 as a way of widening access to this central but neglected coalescence of our history, poetry and music. I felt this would be the best way to restore some of the lost intellectual and sensuous fabric of our society. Any history of song reads like a diary of society’s inner life, and from Francis Hopkinson – a friend of George Washington and signer of the Declaration of Independence – to Leonard Bernstein and John Adams, American song is no exception.
But the issue is more fundamental than one of spreading musical experience, for the past decade has taken a heavy toll on our sense of the meaning of culture more widely. The arts and humanities are in crisis not simply because of dwindling support and the havoc wrought on our cultural institutions by the recession. The value of the arts in America has been attacked at a much deeper level, by being mistaken for entertainment, for passive relaxation and an opportunity to forget worldly troubles.
Music and art do bring a kind of relaxation. But this is much more powerful if we understand it as an active harmonisation of ourselves in our environment. We can read the facts and figures of our history and make statistical sense of the civil and foreign wars, the waves of immigration that built our country, but song can play a uniquely powerful role in giving us access to the sensible realities of this past.
More importantly, it is by remembering who we were that we can regain the confidence once again to be ourselves. America has certainly committed wrongs in the past. Now is not a time to forget but to take responsibility for those wrongs. If righting them means holding those responsible to account, then so be it. We made it through Watergate; we can make it through this.
The heart of American identity has always been its diversity. Through active engagement in our culture, and a renewal of liberal arts education in our schools, we can once again restore to our foundational motto its former dignity: E pluribus unum.
Interview by Guy Dammann
Thomas Hampson appears as Germont (above) in “La Traviata” at the Royal Opera House, London WC2, from 18 June. In 2009-2010, to mark the 250th anniversary of the first song written in America and in association with the Library of Congress, the Song of America project will explore America’s song heritage through educational activities, exhibitions, recordings, broadcasts, cybercasts and interactive online resources. More details: http://hampsong.org
“It’s not only the singing of baritone Thomas Hampson, on top form, that makes this recital so enjoyable; it’s the affectionate new string arrangements, joyously played by the Amsterdam Sinfonietta – as leader Candida Thompson describes it, “a big string quartet” of two dozen players. All but one of the arrangements are by David Matthews, who adds texture and illumination to already radiant songs, refreshing these lilies without gilding them. Intertwining solo violins make the opening of Wolf’s song Anakreons Grab magical; squeaking strings conjure up the rodents in his Der Rattenfänger. Another highlight is Bob Zimmerman’s gossamer version of Schubert’s Ständchen (“Zögernd leise”), the echoes sung by a girls’ choir. Brahms’s Four Serious Songs find Matthews drawing on darker sonorities. Hampson, full of authority, ends on Barber’s masterly Dover Beach, which seems only to benefit from its quartet parts being lent the weight and security of a full string orchestra.”
Erica Jeal – The Guardian
On March 15 at 4pm ET, Thomas Hampson returns to the Manhattan School of Music to lead his 10th Annual Master Class and Live Webcast. The live stream will be available to watch via dl.msmnyc.edu/live, with an archived broadcast available online following the event (details TBA). The 2016 Master Class can now be enjoyed at the following link; complete program details from that Master Class are also listed online in PDF format.
This spring, Thomas Hampson revisits a signature role, Giorgio Germont, in his return to The Metropolitan Opera stage. Sonya Yoncheva and Carmen Giannatasio alternate as Violetta, and Michael Fabiano is Alfredo, in the Willy Decker production which Mr. Hampson originated in Salzburg (2005) to great acclaim:
“Thomas Hampson masterfully portrays the elder Germont as a man torn – moved by Violetta but determined that propriety prevails.” (The New York Times)
BERLIN, February 9, 2017: The award-winning American baritone Thomas Hampson announced today the release of unpublished and exclusive recordings on the classical music streaming service Idagio. The recordings, hidden gems from live archive performances, include: Schubert’s Winterreise, op. 89, D 911 (until today unpublished recording with Wolfram Rieger, piano); the never heard before live recording of Lingua Angelorum, which Hampson commissioned by contemporary composer Sylvie Bodorová; and selected songs by Hugo Wolf. Also released today on Idagio are songs based on Des Knaben Wunderhorn by Mahler, Brahms, Mendelssohn and Schönberg ; Schumann’s Kerner-Lieder; and the collection Wondrous Free – Song of America II. The release is accessible now on the Idagio iOS app and with lossless audio on the web app www.idagio.com – and immediately available in over 70 countries.
“Thomas Hampson’s long, thriving career on both sides of the Atlantic has established him as one of the most successful and versatile operatic baritones in the world. More than that, he is regarded as an emblematic figure in US opera – an articulate spokesman, championing its heritage, shaping its future and acting as an example to successive generations of young talent.” (Opera Now)
The complete feature, titled “An American Abroad,” can be viewed via the following formats:
Register here for the complete digital edition of the magazine: http://bit.ly/2kUIufr
The article is also available to enjoy via the following link.
Thomas Hampson und Luca Pisaroni sind nicht nur beide angesehene Opernsänger, sondern auch Schwiegervater und -sohn. Nun haben der Bariton (Hampson, 61) und der Bassbariton (Pisaroni, 41) das brandneue Programm “No Tenors Allowed” geschaffen. Die OÖNachrichten begleiteten das Duo zum “Testlauf” nach Istanbul.
In song, you have one of the most amazing diaries of any generation’s culture at a given time.