(Continued from Part 1)

EM: Let’s now transition into opera. I of course remember with great fondness and was deeply impressed with your debut at the Met, which I was able to see from the pit. Since then opera has been, to me, as large an identification with your persona as anything else. I’d love to talk about how you love to sing Strauss and Verdi. Do you lean toward Verdi, or do you feel equally passionate about Strauss?

TH: I’m not sure I really prefer one or the other composer but for several years I can say that I’ve enjoyed the ability to only sing operas that passionately engage me. I can only give my body and mind and voice to characters in which I find my connection. They don’t have to be nice people, they have to be important people. Don Giovanni is a deeply disturbing person, but he’s very important, because we all have Giovanni inside of us. I’m not very good with my favorite this or that, but the musical languages of Verdi, Wagner, Mahler and Strauss are so demonstrably different from one another, that is both the challenge and, quite frankly, the excitement for me. It keeps you on your toes, it keeps you on your edge, you’re always rethinking things. Singing Boccanegra and singing Mandryka (Arabella) couldn’t be any more different a challenge than you could want as a singer. And to some extent, going back to classical music’s own worst enemy, this whole fach mentality, this idea what kind of voice should sing this or that, we get ourselves caught up in the unnecessary. So pertaining to that system, that I would sing both Boccanegra and Mandryka is a curious juxtaposition. I love that challenge. That’s just where I live. I love assuming those two different personas, trying to understand and meet the challenges of those two great composing masters. I also loved singing Gluck’s Iphigenie en Tauride and I’m equally passionate about contemporary opera.

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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