Though sidelined initially by bronchitis that forced him out of two performances, Thomas Hampson returned to the Metropolitan Opera to make an acclaimed role debut in the title role of Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck.”  On Saturday afternoon, March 22 beginning at 1pm, Hampson will be heard in his final performance of the role in the Met’s current revival.  The matinee performance will also be carried live in the company’s series of weekly broadcasts on New York’s classical music station, WQXR 105.9 FM.

As a special preview to the Saturday broadcast, WQXR will also feature Hampson as the special guest host in its weekly Operavore show, which airs at 12:30 pm. On the program, Hampson plays excerpts from works by Alban Berg – including Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6 and “Wozzeck” – and Mahler – including Symphonies No. 7 and 9 – to  illustrate the musical connection between the two composers (in interviews, Hampson has called “Wozzeck” the “opera that Mahler never wrote”). Rounding out the program are recorded performances by Hampson of two Wunderhorn songs by Mahler and an excerpt from an interview with Operavore host Marilyn Horne that was recorded last fall.

Critical response to Hampson’s Wozzeck performances have been extremely enthusiastic.  Under the headline “Recovered Enough to Play Hobbled,” Anthony Tommasini reported in the New York Times:

“On Thursday, [Hampson] won a deserved ovation for his anguished, haunted portrayal of Wozzeck….in the wrenching moments when the role calls for burnished, lyrical singing, he drew upon the innate richness of his voice and shaped phrases poignantly…With his tall, distinguished physique, Mr. Hampson might seem the wrong body type for the role, but he used his imposing stature to dramatic effect. This Wozzeck, with hollowed eyes and hobbled gait, seemed to be sinking under the pressure of poverty and the manipulation of his sneering superiors. Still, now and then a gleam of dignity, even charisma, came through, underlining the character’s tragedy. If only this Wozzeck had been given a break or two, a decent job, his life might have turned out differently.”

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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