“Opera in the Times of COVID” is an interview series in collaboration with photographer Frances Marshall of Marshall Light Studio. We talk to notable figures from around the opera world to get their perspective on how they feel these challenging times may change opera’s present and future.
Baritone Thomas Hampson is one of opera’s great baritones, an artistic with an elegant vocal style fused with a striking stage presence. The brilliance of his artistry is born out of his thoughtfulness and what seems like an infinite well of intellect. His interviews are some of the most fascinating learning experiences you can engage with.
In this interview, he relates his thoughts on the current crisis, his wide-ranging interests, and what he thinks comes next for the world.
Thomas Hampson: I have tried to realize this period as a kind of sabbatical, regardless that it was not of my choosing. There is always a lot to listen to and to read and study, and of course a house and a library to clean …
TH: People are fearful of larger crowds, and that will take some time and trust to lessen. I am sure that we are not returning to business as usual, but I hope soon there can be a human personal dimension again to our performance world. Digital is very fine, is easily accessible, and is a wonderful enhancement to our lives, but it is NO REPLACEMENT for live ART.
TH: I think the entire heightened digital awareness is the first effect, and some of it is quite positive. What effect that will have on production and performance standards in the future no one can know as of yet. There was already a quite extensive social media world, but now it is more accepted and will certainly have an impact on the industry.
I have been very active with my teaching and mentoring programs in Germany and the US, as well the “IDAGIO Live” platform that has just been launched in BETA, which includes some very fun chats with colleagues and deep dives into my favorite repertoire. All positive developments.
TH: I am not surprised by any of the efforts that had to fill the vacuum left by the Virus.
TH: Community, compassion, and awareness.
TH: I think there could be real concerns about the status quo business models. There needs to be an understanding that the fees of “pay for play” artists are part of the entire operating budget, and are not dismissible elective costs that are supposedly covered by a very outdated concept of “force majeure.”
The overriding concern for me is to ensure the value of the Arts in society, above and beyond the spontaneous entertainment value they may offer. The Arts are not an industry to be recovered, the Arts will always create an industry because the needs of its society demand it.
TH: Haircut, pedicure, massage, GOLF …! Missing all of those things and so much more.
My family and mostly my at-home partner= my wife Andrea!
TH: Well, I have always been a great movie fan, so maybe that has been more intense. But I have also had time to expand my viewing, reading, and listening tastes.
My tastes are pretty eclectic, so I’m watching everything from murder mysteries and historical dramas, and am listening to country western music and indigenous folk roots music from across the world … you get the idea! I love variety and this has been a great opportunity to explore other genres of film and music.
Learning new software and reading new pieces of music can be very time intensive and that has been now possible for me during this time.
TH: This is of course the most important question for us all. We will need to reform our sense of what me MUST have vs. what we can live with or without.
I am willing to forego traveling so much if there is an industry that will allow me not to do that. We should certainly find ourselves more passionate about the lives we lead, the water and food we consume, and what that means in a finite world of resources. We are a LOT of people on this planet that must cohabitate. Maybe this virus has made us all more aware of our interconnectivity, dependance, and vulnerability … TOGETHER. One can only hope.
Photo credit: Francis Marshall
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 this Beethoven-year, Thomas Hampson joins the Amsterdam Sinfonietta on tour to Moscow, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Together they bring a loving musical program, featuring Beethoven’s pining song cycle An die ferne Geliebte, and new arrangements of songs by Richard Strauss. In the past, Mr. Hampson has joined Amsterdam Sinfonietta on tour in Europe, including appearances in the major concert halls of Dublin, Madrid, Vienna, and Lisbon. He also recently teamed up with the ensemble to create the acclaimed ‘Tides of Life’ CD, released by Channel Classics in 2017.
Thomas Hampson heads to the University of Michigan School of Music for his residency beginning on Sunday, February 2, with the “Song As Citizenship” Symposium in McIntosh Theatre. The free event will be led by Associate Dean Mark Clague, with panelists including Mr. Hampson, Lousie Toppin, Caroline Helton, Chrisie Finn, George Shirley, among others. The event explores the importance of music and song. Three SMTD vocalists will sing solo songs.
Thomas Hampson brings his “Song of America: Beyond Liberty” project to the Tucson Desert Song Festival and the Seattle Symphony this month, celebrating and exploring the influential people, poetry, and events that helped create and define “the land of the free.” Hampson will be accompanied by pianist Lara Downes and a diverse ensemble of exceptional musicians, the Beyond Liberty Players.
Thomas Hampson performs in a series of chamber music concerts, featuring pianist Yuja Wang and clarinetist Andreas Ottensamer, at the Bürgenstock Winter Festival in Switzerland this month. Marking the 8th Bürgenstock Winter Festival, this edition focuses on traditions, legacies, and anniversaries. Following the festival’s new tradition, they also depart from the purely classical and explore tunes from the American songbook with Mr. Hampson.
In song, you have one of the most amazing diaries of any generation’s culture at a given time.