Hampson’s “intense” Mandryka

American baritone Thomas Hampson has been garnering praise from the demanding Viennese press for one of his favorite roles: Mandryka, the shy, countrified hero of Richard Strauss’s late opera Arabella. Mr. Hampson appears in a new production of Arabella that opened at the Vienna State Opera on December 9, the first performance of the beloved and bittersweet Viennese romance seen in the “House on the Ring” in a decade. (There are six remaining performances through March 30.)

image A critic from Vienna’s Die Presse stated that “Thomas Hampson, the Mandryka,…was at [his] best just where Strauss demands the most: in the upper register of the voice. He plays the wealthy land owner especially believably, as a bashful bumpkin going to the big city, amazed by the amount of decadence he finds.”

The Standard called Hampson’s Mandryka “intense and vocally flexible.”

Hampson and his onstage Arabella are praised in the Neues Volksblatt: “The attractive Arabella, Adrienne Pieczonka – with Thomas Hampson as a vocally and dramatically magnificent Mandryka — performed touching love-scenes.”

In Germany’s Welt: “Thomas Hampson as country cousin Mandryka is … definitely the right man for the role: a little worn, a little proud, but completely modern.”

The News magazine review observed, “You can’t put Hofmannsthal’s libretto on stage in a better way than Sven-Eric Bechtolf (production) and Rolf Glittenberg (sets) have done. The action has been convincingly transferred to the 1930s. …You will not find a better Mandryka than Thomas Hampson.”

Hampson especially enjoyed working with director Sven-Eric Bechtolf during rehearsals for the production, whose conducting by Franz Welser-Möst received special kudos. Says Hampson, “Each day we invented a new biography for Mandryka. He might have been an officer in the Great War, so his manners as an officer and gentleman are compounded by the horrors of war he has experienced. His family, his first wife, his manor in Croatia – all of this belongs to a time gone by.”

An OPERA NEWS review of a 2004 performance at London’s Royal Opera House stated: “Karita Mattila is an Arabella to dream about. … She missed nothing. Neither did her Mandryka, Thomas Hampson, whose comprehensive baritone took in all the mood-swings of the impulsive character, lacking only, perhaps, the natural diffidence of an unworldly countryman in a sophisticated cosmopolitan capital.”

Thomas Hampson reports for duty at New York’s Metropolitan Opera next month to prepare for his first company performances in the title role of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra (February 19-March 9, 2007). While in New York this season he will co-host the second annual OPERA NEWS Awards (Sunday, January 28 at The Pierre) and join Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic for a performance of Mahler’s Rückert Lieder at Carnegie Hall (February 1).

For a complete listing of Thomas Hampson’s engagements please visit the calendar.