Thomas Hampson’s Danilo “is simply terrific” in Lyric’s new production of The Merry Widow
“Then it was off to belle-epoque Paris, circa 1900, for the familiar romantic comedy involving a rich, desirable widow, Hanna Glawari (Fleming), and her former flame, the playboy-roue Count Danilo (Thomas Hampson, who’s simply terrific).
. . . what came across as rather self-conscious banter between Hanna and Hampson’s Danilo turned to genuine romantic sparks. From there on, these seasoned performers brought out the best in one another.
That said, Saturday’s performance belonged to Hampson. The admirable baritone’s smooth yet powerful singing and tall, handsome stage presence are ideal for the role . . . Nobody in opera today does debonair like Hampson, and his comic timing was impeccable. Did I mention he brings a lieder singer’s care for words to even the silliest throwaway line?”
John von Rhein – Chicago Tribune
“The evening’s real star, though, was baritone Thomas Hampson, who appeared to be having the time of his life as Count Danilo Danilovich, a bon vivant and ex-lover of Hanna who struggles to voice the feelings he still harbors for her. A terrific comic actor, Hampson sculpted a rich, boisterous, audience-pleasing portrayal of the suave, self-indulgent yet caring count – a role that provides a superb showcase for his full, resonant voice, which remains in excellent form.”
Kyle MacMillan – Chicago Sun-Times
“Thomas Hampson as Danilo proved a wonderful counterpart to Fleming’s character. Hampson buoyed Fleming’s prim Hanna Glawari with entertaining vim and banter – his mix of rakishness and bashful acting would make Hugh Grant proud. The singing was magnificent too, with the aria “Es waren zwei Königskinder” marrying Hampson’s acting prowess with articulate, passionate singing.”
Graham Emberton – Bachtrack.com
“Baritone Thomas Hampson proved an ideal partner for her in this piece with his roguish, elegantly sung Danilo. The two singers’ long professional association was everywhere telling in their comfortable, playfully teasing interaction onstage.”
Mark Thomas Ketterson – Opera News
“Mr. Hampson is a comfortable fit in the role of Danilo. He acts the part with sufficient self-absorption to convince, and the vocal line suits him now especially well. In his entrance song, “As diplomatic attaché,” Hampson traces the changing tempos with natural grace, as he describes contrasting his daily bureaucratic tasks with nightly diversions at the club.”
Salvatore Calomino – Opera Today
“. . . what makes this story play is the result of chemistry in casting combined with light, beautiful voices (which the Lyric nails with the second however makes some missteps with the former); it is a lesson in chemistry. As the centerpiece of this production they have cast the incomparable Renee Fleming and Thomas Hampson who possess that chemistry which pours over the footlights and washes the audience in its warmth. It is clear they adore one another in such a natural way that we get swept up in the story and genuinely care about them . . .
As Count Danillo, Thomas Hampson is made for this role with all of the panache and dashing presence demanded. He also brings an eccentricity to this well-known character (based on the actual Prince Danillo) and a strong acting ability which matches his legendary vocal prowess. You can tell he feels at ease with Fleming and they are two old friends having a sparring match and relishing every moment of it.”
James Murray – Showbiz Chicago
“He, the dapper chocolate soldier and she, the sparkling spun sugar bride atop the wedding cake, Fleming and Hampson are a wonderful pair as Hanna and Danilo. Both mature singers with the ability to imbue even the most familiar aria with real emotion (and obviously enjoying them selves and the audience), these two seasoned veterans are a joy to see and hear.”
Lori Dana – Chicago Stage Review
“Noted baritone Thomas Hampson was a delight as Danilo, with a big voice and excellent comic sense.”
Chuck Lavazzi – KDHX.org
“This is a love story, told in glorious music, between two adults who parted young. Fleming and Hampson, both tops in the pantheon of operatic actors, have great chemistry and their voices turn Lehar’s luscious songs into show-stoppers. They spar deftly, and she even throws down one of her gloves, which he accurately recognizes as a declaration of war. All the while, we in the audience long to push them back together . . .
It is a triumph for the artists and for Lyric, a show for all ages.”
Dorothy Andries – MakeItBetter.net
“The performance is full of life and laughter . . . the confirmed bachelor Count Danilo, played and sung brilliantly by Thomas Hampson. His entry onstage is one of the great comedic moments in opera. The mark of the Tony Award-winning director/choreographer Stroman is all over this production. Comedic timing is perfect throughout, with Hampson leading the way.”
Dwight Casimere – The Times Weekly
“The production’s uniformly excellent cast boasts fine performances from its principals, actors, choir and dancers. Thomas Hampson is suitably rakish yet instantly likeable as the count; he and Fleming have real chemistry.”
Barnaby Hughes – Stage and Cinema
“Hampson offers exactly the dashing, debauched Danilo needed to keep the operetta moving forward. Danilo’s signature aria, “You’ll Find Me at Maxim’s,” may be the stuff of vaudeville – and Lehár didn’t hesitate to milk it in reprises – but it’s a great guilty pleasure and Hampson delivers it with the full measure of self-indulgent decadence.”
Lawrence B. Johnson – Chicago on the Aisle
“Thomas Hampson creates a Danilo much more attractive than most, being more world weary than drunken, and he cuts a dashing figure. He sings with force informed by flair and nonchalance, and it’s always easy to believe that Hanna loved him once and loves him still. The two of them are a couple you want to see together.”
M.L. Rantala – Hyde Park Herald
“Fleming shares major duets in each act with Hampson which are lovely in their distinct ways; the first jaunty, the second humorously martial, and the third a well-earned bit of sappiness. Hampson, too, has several funny moments and is an accomplished actor. His early song praising Chez Maxim is a crucial moment in establishing the show’s light, fun tone, and recurs throughout without ever getting old.”
Scotty Zacher – Chicago Theater Beat
“. . . with Fleming and Thomas Hampson leading an inspired cast, a handsome and lavish production, and some exhilarating dance sequences, Lyric Opera’s Merry Widow makes an undeniably lively and dazzling show . . .
Hampson was born to play the role of Danilo, Hanna’s cynical former flame. The baritone was fully credible as the work-averse and marriage-phobic bachelor who would rather hang out with the slatternly grisettes at Maxim’s than settle down . . . he brought the right romantic sensibility to the waltz-song, and proved a versatile and energetic presence, as engaged in the comedy and dancing as the vocalism.”
Lawrence A. Johnson – Chicago Classical Review