Hampson’s first Boccanegra at the Met

“Simon Boccanegra is Verdi for grownups,” says baritone Thomas Hampson of one of his favorite Verdi parts. The dark political drama is about the public and personal life of a former pirate who is named doge in 14th-century Genoa. Hampson will give six performances of the complex and captivating role from February 19 through March 9 (details below).

Since Mr. Hampson’s Metropolitan Opera debut as the Count in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro in 1986, he has sung 17 other roles, numerous concerts and several gala performances, including last season’s farewell to Joseph Volpe, when he and Karita Mattila stole the show with a seductive duet from Die Fledermaus. Boccanegra is only Hampson’s third Verdi part there. He sang the role for the first time to great acclaim at the Vienna State Opera in 2002. Britain’s Opera magazine praised his performance in the February 2003 issue:

“Right from the Prologue he made a very noble figure … [and] pointed his words most expressively. Even more notable was the wealth of colours employed: the dreamy, wounded nostalgia of his evocations of ‘Maria’, the tenderness of his recognition of Amelia, the eloquence in the Council Chamber and the demonic pianissimo when circling Paolo to trap him into cursing himself, finally his very moving death scene – a great assumption.”

“Verdi gave Boccanegra a broad palette of expression – from whispered parlando to grand cantilena – with many lyrical phrases. But still, as the title character, Boccanegra has no proper aria! His vocal lines develop out of each situation as it arises, and this calls for singing of the subtlest, most sophisticated kind,” says Mr. Hampson.

“The dilemma Boccanegra faces is typical of Verdi’s operas,” adds Hampson. “He’s elected doge, his public life is a success, but his personal happiness is being destroyed. The opera’s about the inner evolution of the hero, more than in other Verdi operas. Boccanegra – his life and his feelings – were near to Verdi’s heart with the death of a beloved woman and the loss of a child.”

“He is a complex man, full of contradictions,” concludes Hampson. “His frustration might seem cynical or even pessimistic, but in the end Simon is a man of hope and compassion, who above all believes in and is fulfilled by love.”

Boccanegra’s daughter, Amelia, will be portrayed by soprano Angela Gheorghiu, who will also be assaying the role for the first time at the Met – although she, too, has sung the deeply tragic part before. Her lover, Gabriele, will be sung by tenor Marcello Giordani, and the evil Fiesco will be sung by Italian bass-baritone Ferruccio Furlanetto. Fabio Luisi conducts.

While in New York City for rehearsal and performances at the Met this season, Thomas Hampson 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).

A summary of Hampson’s past roles at the Met:

Thomas Hampson:
Metropolitan Opera roles

Le nozze di Figaro (Count) (Oct. 9,1986)
La bohème (Schaunard, c. Kleiber)
Il barbiere di Siviglia (Figaro)
Così fan tutte (Guglielmo)
Faust (Valentin)
Die Fledermaus (Dr. Falke)
Don Giovanni (Giovanni)
Billy Budd (Billy)
Les Troyens (Coroebus)
I Puritani (Riccardo)
Don Carlo (Rodrigo)
Werther (Werther)
La traviata (Germont père)
Doktor Faust (Faust)
Eugene Onegin (Onegin)
Tannhäuser (Wolfram)
Parsifal (Amfortas)
Simon Boccanegra (Boccanegra) 2007