Two stars and imaginative fare light up Orchestre National de Lyon concert

“Leonard Slatkin has a reputation for off-the-radar programming, and that was made strikingly evident in his Carnegie Hall appearance with the Orchestre National de Lyon, for which he has served as music director since 2011. In 1910, Maurice Ravel was commissioned to write Antar, a suite based on Rimsky-Korsakov’s Symphony No. 2 (“Antar”) and other music, but Ravel’s score was never published and lay dormant, until the Lyon ensemble decided to resurrect it in 2014. But they went further, in effect creating a new piece by adding commissioned text from Amin Maalouf … Of course, it doesn’t hurt if said narrator is Thomas Hampson—a shrewd choice, since his boldly present singing voice is complemented by an equally boldly present speaking one. Slight amplification, expertly done—coupled with his impressive diction and projection—helped him ride just a few notches above the orchestra, as if he were the perfect bedtime-story-reader.”

Bruce Hodges – New York Classical Review

“Additionally, one could not hope for a better narrator than Thomas Hampson, who displayed all of the characteristics that make him one of the foremost American baritones of today. Imposing and refined in both manner and speech, his diction was impeccable to the point that the printed text was virtually unnecessary. Hampson’s lifetime of dedication to art song was apparent as he deliberately and dramatically delivered the lines of the story while subtly adapting his voice to suit each character. He equally embodied the personalities of the young and battle-eager Antar and the reproachful, loving Abla.  In the final scene following Antar’s death, his delivery of the words, “…take comfort. Death too is a mirage” captured the visceral feelings of great joy and unyielding sorrow of one who has felt pure love and happiness but then lost everything to tragedy. One can only hope that Ravel’s Antar receives many more performances by the Orchestre National de Lyon, ideally with Thomas Hampson in the role of Narrator.”

Lauren Alfano – I Care If You Listen

“The narrator was the eminent baritone Thomas Hampson. He, of course, has a beautiful speaking voice, and read the text with immense feeling. The music by Rimsky-Korsakov was reminiscent of his “Scheherazade” with its Arabian Nights flavor.”

Barry Bassis – The Epoch Times