Jan 22, 2020
Thomas Hampson’s resume reads like opera’s greatest hits:
He’s sung more than 80 operatic roles in major theaters from New York’s Met to the UK’s Covent Garden, recorded more than 170 albums that have garnered four Grammy nominations and a Grammy win and has performed in the world premieres of several new operas including Rufus Wainwright’s “Hadrian” in Canada and Tarik O’Regan’s “The Phoenix” with the Houston Grand Opera, both in the 2018-19 season.
But if you ask him, he will tell you one of his biggest professional thrills is singing American songs, works that borrow texts from great American poets including Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln.
“It’s my songs. It’s my poetry. Every song I sing makes me buzz and tingle,” said Hampson, who brings his “Song of America: Beyond Liberty” show to Centennial Hall Tuesday, Jan. 28, as part of the eighth annual Tucson Desert Song Festival. “The tough thing about this show is what not to sing. I know more American songs and of more American songs than I can possibly sing before I die. And I am passionate that people, whether they are musicians or not, celebrate our culture through the arts and through the stories and through the poetry and through the music.”
Hampson is arguably the ambassador of American song. He has been doing recitals under the umbrella “American Song” since the mid-1990s and has collaborated for almost 25 years with the Library of Congress, which has thousands of songs by American composers in its collection.
“There is something quite unique to American culture in that we are unbelievably creative, and maybe people know that, and in every genre we have but also in the classical music genre and the classic song genre, we have been unbelievably prolific,” said the 64-year-old, who grew up in Spokane, Washington, and now calls Berlin home.
But America’s song history has gotten somewhat overshadowed in the pursuit to identify America’s Johannes Brahms, Franz Schubert or Claude Debussy.
“I just decided 25 some years ago that that’s the wrong question. I think the way to look at American culture is through 10- and 15-year slices of this incredibly myriad culture that is always mutating to this next generation,” Hampson said last week from Berlin.
“Song of America: Beyond Liberty” is the second iteration of “Song of America,” a program of American songs that Hampson has been performing since the mid-1990s. This version includes telling stories about the composers, music and the times in which they lived.
Hampson will be accompanied by pianist Lara Downes and his Beyond Liberty Players that include a percussionist, cellist and violinist.
Despite its title, Hampson cautions about reading anything political into the show.
“It’s not in the least” bit political, said Hampson, who studied politics and government in addition to voice as an undergrad at home in Washington State. “It is an evening of stories. I believe if we know our stories and our songs that we know ourselves better as Americans and that’s the only thing behind it all. It’s a wonderful celebration of American culture.”
Thomas Hampson makes his Global Concert Hall debut next month, performing with the Orchester Wiener Akademie under the baton of its founder and musical director Martin Haselböck. The concert, filmed at the Brucknerhouse Linz in August 2020, will be streamed on IDAGIO’s Global Concert Hall on Thursday, October 15, beginning at 8 pm Berlin / 2 pm New York. The concert will be available to stream through October 22.
Thomas Hampson returns to the stage this month, with a concert at the Stiftskirche Millstatt, and two performances at the Salzkammergut Classic Festival. Beginning on August 2 in Millstatt, Hampson will perform lieder by Gustav Mahler and Johannes Brahms with pianist Christian Koch, and the Carinthia Chor Millstatt will sing Carinthian songs under the direction of Bernhard Zlanabitnig.
For the first time ever, audiences around the world will have a special opportunity to watch the Canadian Opera Company’s 2018 world premiere production of Hadrian, in full, online. On Monday, August 10 at 6:30 p.m. ET, in partnership with Montréal Pride Festival, the COC is hosting a free, one-night-only digital stream of the modern grand opera. The Hadrian Watch Party helps kick off one week of virtual Pride events and will feature a live Q&A session with both the composer and celebrated singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright and librettist Daniel MacIvor, a giant in Canadian theatre.
The Gewandhausorchester will stream the best recordings from the 2018 and 2019 concerts of Leipzig’s largest classical event, the “Klassik airleben” on Saturday, June 27, at 20:00 via www.klassik-airleben.de. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the famous open-air concert at the picturesque Rosental was canceled this year.
On Friday, May 1, starting at 21:00 CET, the Teatro Maggio Musicale Fiorentino will stream an at-home concert featuring some of the world’s greatest opera stars. Live from their living rooms, the performance will feature Thomas Hampson, Cecilia Bartoli, Vittorio Grigolo, Mikhail Petrenko, Diana Damrau, Ludovic Tézier, Francesco Meli, Lisette Oropesa, Luca Salsi, Krassimira Stoyanova, Michele Pertusi, Eva Mei, Leo Nucci, Sonya Yoncheva, Fabio Sartori, and Saioa Hernández, among others who have yet to be announced.
The New York Philharmonic announced their new digital festival, Mahler’s New York, a two-week celebration of the composer/conductor who spent time in New York as the Philharmonic’s tenth Music Director (1909-11), running from April 16-30, 2020, at nyphil.org/mahlerny. During this period of global isolation and crisis, the NY Phil hopes all listeners will take comfort and inspiration in Mahler’s music and musings.
In song, you have one of the most amazing diaries of any generation’s culture at a given time.