“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are part of the entire operating budget, and are not dismissible elective costs that are supposedly covered by a very outdated concept of “force majeure.”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
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 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.
In song, you have one of the most amazing diaries of any generation’s culture at a given time.