When Thomas Hampson made his American role debut as Verdi’s Macbeth in 2007, the San Francisco Chronicle pronounced his portrayal an “unqualified triumph,” marveling: “Just when there seemed to be no way for Thomas Hampson’s performance in the title role of Verdi’s Macbeth to get any more majestic or wrenching, it did.” Now for the first time the baritone brings this signature role to the Metropolitan Opera, giving the first of six performances on March 15, when the company revives Adrian Noble’s “stylistically eclectic, grimly effective and, at times, intriguingly playful production” (New York Times).

Photo: Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago

Noble’s innovative staging, which sets Macbeth’s action in the years after the Second World War, is complemented by Mark Thompson’s set and costume design, with acclaimed Italian maestro Gianandrea Noseda on the podium. Joining Hampson on stage is German soprano Nadja Michael as Lady Macbeth, who sang the same role opposite him at Chicago’s Lyric Opera; the New York Review of Books confessed to never having seen a “better performed version than this, with the thunder-voiced Hampson and the sexy Michael at the top of their game.” Austrian bass Günther Groissböck sings Banquo, and tenor Dimitri Pittas reprises Macduff, the role in which he impressed the New York Times with his “melting sound and dramatic urgency” at the production’s opening run.

Of Verdi’s depiction of Shakespeare’s conflicted protagonist, Hampson says:

“I don’t know of anyone who writes better human expression in music than Verdi. It’s quite exhilarating. How you can hear in music a personality: that just fascinates me. He does everything to convey the psychological state of his characters. That is his genius. And Verdi is so adept at depicting the duality of Macbeth. He’s a very ambiguous character; you like him, you hate him. It’s not just black and white.”

Having starred in multiple Macbeth productions around the world, the baritone brings a wealth of experience to his interpretation of the title role. He explains:

“Since I know it well, I think I can go further with this part. The biggest advantage is that you gain a three-dimensional confidence…so that you can actually physically do something or project something that is ironic or contradictory to what the music and words are. It takes a lot of practice to do that. Also, just vocally, you grow into it. To sing opera is a complex endeavor.”

There will be an opportunity to hear the singer expound further when the Metropolitan Opera Guild honors Thomas Hampson with the third installment in its prestigious “Mastersingers” series. On March 22 at New York’s Hunter College, “Met Mastersingers: Thomas Hampson” presents the great baritone in an informal conversation with Paul Gruber, the Guild’s executive director of program development. The program will include video excerpts of Hampson’s most celebrated performances, a new video biography created for the occasion, and a performance by the baritone of some of his favorite songs. Gruber observes:

“I have enormous admiration and respect for Thomas Hampson, and am delighted that the Guild will celebrate him as this year’s ‘Met Mastersinger.’ In addition to having perhaps the most beautiful baritone voice of his generation, he has never rested in his quest to expand his musical horizons, as well as those of his audience. Thomas Hampson is the very definition of a mastersinger.”

Additional information about Thomas Hampson is available at www.thomashampson.com, and a list of his upcoming U.S. engagements follows.

Thomas Hampson: upcoming U.S. engagements

Feb 29
New York, NY
Vocal master class at the Manhattan School of Music
Miller Recital Hall and online at http://www.dl.msmnyc.edu

March 1
New York, NY
Borden Auditorium, Manhattan School of Music
Danielpour: Come up from the Fields, Father
MSM Chamber Sinfonia / Manahan

March 10
New York, NY
“Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS” Michael Palm Series
Opera program with baritone Luca Pisaroni and pianist Carrie-Ann Matheson

March 15, 20, & 24; April 2, 5, & 9
New York, NY
Verdi: Macbeth (title role)
Company role debut
Metropolitan Opera / Noseda

March 18
Ridgewood, NJ
Parlance Chamber Concert Series
Chamber music program with colleagues from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra

March 21
New York, NY
“Adventures in Italian Opera”
A conversation with Fred Plotkin at the Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò/NYU
(24 West 12th St, between 5th and 6th Aves; 212 998-8739)

March 22
New York, NY
“Met Mastersingers: Thomas Hampson”
The Metropolitan Opera Guild’s Paul Gruber joins Thomas Hampson to discuss his work, watch video excerpts of his performances, and hear him sing some favorite songs.
The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College (68th St, between Park and Lexington Aves)

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In song, you have one of the most amazing diaries of any generation’s culture at a given time.

Thomas Hampson