Thomas Hampson’s 2010-11 season

Thomas Hampson 2010-11 Season Has Celebrations of Life and Music of Gustav Mahler as Centerpiece, with Baritone Performing Great Austrian Composer’s Music on More than 50 Programs Including Recitals and Concerts with World’s Greatest Orchestras and Conductors

Other Highlights Include Season-Opening Title Role in Verdi’s Macbeth at Lyric Opera of Chicago; New Productions of Verdi’s I Masnadieri and Wagner’s Parsifal at Zurich Opera; George Crumb’s American Songbooks with Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York and Washington DC; Performances and World-Premiere Recording of Richard Danielpour’s Songs of Solitude; and World Premiere of William Bolcom’s Laura Sonnets.

The music of Gustav Mahler – who was born 150 years ago and died a century ago – will be the centerpiece of a far-ranging new season for Thomas Hampson.  Long a touchstone for the baritone’s life and career, Mahler’s music will appear on more than 50 of Hampson’s recital and concert programs throughout the season, as well as on his new recording of Des Knaben Wunderhorn with the Wiener Virtuosen – a conductor-less ensemble comprised of principal players of the Vienna Philharmonic – available in January 2011.  Hampson performs Mahler in many of the world’s musical capitals with orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, NDR Sinfonieorchester, Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, and Czech Philharmonic with conductors like Alan Gilbert, Mariss Jansons, Philippe Jordan, and Antonio Pappano.  He also features the composer’s songs in a series of recitals in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Vienna, Zurich, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Milan, Madrid, and Oslo, and, as “Mahler Artist-in-Residence”, presents the complete songs at Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie.

Additional highlights of Hampson’s 2010-2011 season include season-opening performances in the title role in a new production of Verdi’s Macbeth at Lyric Opera of Chicago; three all-Strauss concerts with Renée Fleming and the Berliner Philharmonic conducted by Christian Thielemann; selections from George Crumb’s American Songbooks performed with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; “Song of America” recitals at Duke University and Minnesota Beethoven Festival; performances and a world-premiere recording of Richard Danielpour’s Songs of Solitude, newly commissioned for Hampson and the Philadelphia Orchestra; and the world premiere of William Bolcom’s Laura Sonnets, also written especially for the baritone. In Switzerland, he performs at the Zurich Opera in new productions of Verdi’s I masnadieri and Wagner’s Parsifal under Adam Fischer and Daniele Gatti, and appears in a series of opera galas.

Asked to describe his feelings about performing such a wide variety of music with so many greatly admired colleagues, Hampson commented:

“It’s more than thrilling.  This is really the kind of season that I love, full of so many different activities: performances in Europe and America, opera, lieder, concerts, new works, more of the ‘Song of America’ project.  I get tremendous energy from it and it gives me a sense of overwhelming artistic joy.  It’s also a wonderfully lucky reality of fate that at the height of my career I land in the anniversary of one of the composers I admire most, Gustav Mahler. This has given me the opportunity to make a recording I’ve always wanted to make, work with some remarkable conductors and orchestras in their home cities and on tour, and do various academic and journalistic activities on Mahler. It’s all thrilling and humbling at the same time.”

Hampson’s “thrilling and humbling” new season takes flight on October 1, when he gives the first of nine performances in the title role of Verdi’s Macbeth at Lyric Opera of Chicago (Oct 1-30).  Hampson has done three productions of the opera previously – in San Francisco, Zurich, and Covent Garden – but the Lyric Opera production by Barbara Gaines of Chicago Shakespeare Theater will be his first new production of the work in the past ten years.  Hampson looks forward to returning to a city and company of which he is enormously fond.  “I love Chicago.  It’s one of the most dynamic American cities and it has many fantastic cultural institutions including this amazing and wonderful opera house.”

Hampson discusses Verdi’s Macbeth at length in an illuminating two-part conversation with Mark Travis, of the “Backstage at Lyric” series of interviews and podcasts.  Click here to listen.

Hampson and Mahler

Long regarded as the premier interpreter of the songs of Gustav Mahler, Hampson began the worldwide celebrations of the composer’s life and music on July 7, 2010 – Mahler’s 150th birthday – in Kaliste, Czech Republic, with a recital from the composer’s birth house, streamed live on, as well as an internationally televised orchestral concert, available on DVD.  Recently, to great acclaim, he performed Das Lied von der Erde with the NDR Symphony Orchestra, Hamburg and Alan Gilbert on a four-city tour that included the final concert of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival.  This month, the San Francisco Symphony issued a new recording on its own SFS Media label, featuring Mahler’s songs for soloists and orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.  On the album, Hampson sings Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and five songs from Des Knaben Wunderborn. A preview in the Contra Costa Times predicted a Grammy nomination for the album, in large part due to “sublime contributions” from the singers.  The reviewer continued:

“Hampson, in particular, is a joy to listen to, his baritone flowing like liquid gold from the very first phrases of the four ‘Songs of the Wayfarer’ that open the CD.  His limber voice strides across an expansive register in leaps and bounds, his German diction so precise and spot-on that every syllable is its own distinct jewel.  The spare orchestral writing flutters and swirls around him, never overwhelming the voice and evoking atmosphere rather than plodding ‘accompaniment.’  I know of no other American baritone as adept at weaving nuance and pure emotion into such flawless musical execution.”

Hampson introduces listeners to his favorite Mahler songs in a special feature available at the NPR Music website:

Highlights of the previous season

Much of Hampson’s 2009-10 season was devoted to the “Song of America” project, commemorating the 250th anniversary of what is recognized as the first song written by an American.  In collaboration with the Library of Congress, Hampson performed recitals and presented master classes, exhibits, and broadcasts across the United States and through a new interactive online resource,  He also released a new album, Wondrous Free – Song of America II, on his own imprint, Thomas Hampson Media.  Also last season, Hampson became the New York Philharmonic’s first Artist-in-Residence, an association that saw him featured in three programs with the orchestra; a tour in Europe under the Philharmonic’s new music director, Alan Gilbert; a recital; and a lecture series.  Some of these performances, including a New Year’s Eve concert broadcast nationally on Live From Lincoln Center, are available for download on iTunes.  Other key engagements included Verdi’s Ernani and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at the Zurich Opera, La traviata at the Metropolitan Opera, and numerous recitals and concerts across Europe.