The American baritone continues to successfully promote his country’s classical heritage, as he opens in a star-studded Royal Opera production tonight.
American baritone Thomas Hampson opens in the Royal Opera‘s classic Verdi’s La Traviata tonight. Read it and weep, La Scala and the Met: Calleja – Fleming – Hampson. Not bad for a lineup for Alfredo, Violetta, (everyone’s favourite “doomed courtesan”, as the Royal Opera House’s website has it, with the sort of euphemistic literary flourish you only find in opera synopses – she’s a prostitute), and Germont.
It’s easy to think of opera stars like Joseph Calleja, Renée Fleming, and Hampson as globe-trotting megastars, more interested in which brand of hotel-lobby luxury jewellery or watch they’re going to sponsor, than delving into the psychological depths of operatic characterisation.
But that’s unfair. I met Hampson for this week’s Music Matters, and discovered that he’s one of music’s genuine enthusiasts, and a cyber-philanthropist to boot. Have a look at hampsong.com (clever!), maybe the single most impressive classical singer’s site out there, a bespoke production that gives you access to some of his recordings to stream, links to his appearances on YouTube, photos of Thomas with Alec Baldwin and musical slebs, and the promise of his personal iPhone photos coming soon.
More impressive than all that, though, is Hampson’s Song of America project. He’ll shortly be touring the States with a programme celebrating 250 years of art-song in America (the first was composed in 1759 by Francis Hopkinson, one of the undersigned of the Declaration of Independence), and he told me he plans a free online archive, in association with the Library of Congress, of scores, performances, and scholarly material. When he gets it finished, this could be one of the internet’s great musical resources.
No one has done more to promote American song, from Foster to Barber, from Burleigh to Rorem, than Hampson. They’re lucky to have him as an advocate. Have a listen to this, and see what I mean.
Thomas Hampson is a featured contributor to the newly launched platform MUSAIC, from the New World Symphony and Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas. Mr. Hampson and other acclaimed artists, including cellist Yo-Yo Ma and conductor Pablo Heras-Casado, are featured in various site content including master classes, interviews, and more. Watch and learn today at musaic.nws.edu!
On July 8, Thomas Hampson is a featured artist in an Opera Gala concert, hosted at the Opernhaus Düsseldorf. This special annual event, presented by the Friends of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, includes the talents of the Duisburger Philharmoniker and Deutsche Oper am Rhein chorus, led by Axel Kober. Other soloists for the evening are Lavinia Dames, Luiza Fatyol, and Maria Kataeva, on a programme that includes operatic highlights by Rossini, Mozart, Verdi, and more. A limited number of seats remain for this extraordinary summer concert – purchase your tickets at the following link!
Mr. Hampson sings a recital as part of the Munich Festspiel on June 28. Accompanied by pianist Wolfram Rieger, the Mahler cycle Des Knaben Wunderhorn will be performed in its entirety. Composed at the turn of the century, Mahler set this collection of anonymous German folk poems to music, originally written for either soprano or baritone. Mr. Hampson and Mr. Rieger are well-known for their interpretation of this cycle, and have performed it numerous times together in premiere international venues. For example, the pair interpreted the cycle in 2002 in Paris at the Théâtre du Châtelet, which can be viewed via YouTube. A few years later, Mr. Hampson discussed the importance of the cycle as an Artist-in-Residence with the New York Philharmonic in this discussion.
Hampson and Rieger’s upcoming performance will be held at the Nationaltheater, in the heart of Munich.
On June 16, 17 & 18, Thomas Hampson is the featured soloist with the Orquesta Nacional de España, under the direction of David Afkham. The concert programme is titled “The Origin of the Future” and highlights selections from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn as well as Schoenberg’s Pelleas et Melisande, Op. 5. Tickets: ocne.mcu.es/programacion/el-origen-del-futuro
This summer, Thomas Hampson and bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni reunite for their acclaimed “No Tenors Allowed” programme. They perform with the Gewandhausorchester at the Open Air-Bühne im Rosental on June 23 & 24 under the baton of Alexander Shelley. The programme includes selections by Rossini, Mozart, Massenet, Gounod, and more.
Sony Classical will release a DVD/blu-ray recording of Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, starring Thomas Hampson as the Four Villains. Recorded last autumn at London’s Royal Opera House, Mr. Hampson is joined by Vittorio Grigòlo in the title role, Sonya Yoncheva is Antonia, Kate Lindsey sings Nicklausse, Christine Rice is Giulietta, and Sofia Fomina is Olympia, with Maestro Evelino Pidò leading from the pit. The production by John Schlesinger premiered to enthusiastic reviews in 1980, and is revered for its rich and enduring portrayal of Offenbach’s opera.
In song, you have one of the most amazing diaries of any generation’s culture at a given time.