“Living legend” Thomas Hampson as the spiritual messenger of America

"Living legend" Thomas Hampson as the spiritual messenger of America

Thomas Hampson. Photos – Ira Polar

The coincidence of the well-thought out conceptual design of the program with the political acuteness of the moment at the festival “Opera Apriori” is already a regularity.

April 23, 2015, on the sorrowful day of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the Requiem of Vyacheslav Artyomov was performed by the Armenian soloists and conductor, the Russian National Orchestra and the Russian State Academic Choir Chapel. A. A. Yurlova.

The memorial resonance of the historical date did not overshadow the significance of the musical event as such – the return to the concert stage after almost thirty years of oblivion of the monumental work of the oratorio genre, comparable to the great “Requiem” of past centuries.

Three years and three days passed. April 26, 2018, in spite of political disassembly and diplomatic scandals between Russia and the United States in the spirit of the “cold war”, at the MAMT them. Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko, the springtime The American Spirit reigned.

Thank you, the announcement is hidden.
Thank you, the announcement is hidden.

The program from the works of American composers was represented, perhaps, by the most venerable American baritone Thomas Hampson. Too long to list all his titles and merits.

One of the titles – “The Living Legend” – is not just a poetic revolution, but was actually awarded in 2010 to Mr. Hampson by the Library of Congress as an adviser on the execution and study of American music.

A versatile intellectual, an honorary professor at the Faculty of Philosophy and an honorary doctor of sciences, a singer for whom the poetic meaning of the text is no less important than music, Thomas Hampson for his Moscow public concert debut (his first visit to the capital took place in 2009, but heard the famous baritone then only at a closed evening at the US Embassy) wisely chose a purely American program.

It began with a traditional orchestral “warm-up” – Two Meditations from the “Mass” (1971) by Leonard Bernstein. The MAMT Orchestra once again convinced by its strong professionalism. Uncomfortable by ear, rather depressive music, was played confidently and brightly.

The invited conductor Valentin Uryupin, who made his debut in this role on “Opera Apriori” (last year he performed at the festival as a solo clarinetist), found contact with the staff of the Musical Theater Orchestra, conducted instrumental and accompanying numbers to the vocalist with enthusiasm.

"Living legend" Thomas Hampson as the spiritual messenger of AmericaValentin Uryupin and Thomas Hampson. Photos – Ira Polar

The star guest left immediately with the premiere, the first performance in Russia, of the monographs “Letters of Abraham Lincoln” by the contemporary composer (born 1954) Michael Doherty, written in 2009 to the 200th anniversary of the birth of the greatest US president and dedicated to Thomas Hampson.

The author boldly put on the music genuine prose phrases from the epistolary legacy of “honest Abe,” as the young lawyer Lincoln was nicknamed by the inhabitants of the prairies of the Midwest.

Seven parts of the cycle are like a snapshot of the president’s biography. Short orchestral prologue-epitaph – Lincoln Funerary train, where they were noted by the harmonious roll call of the trumpeter. And further from the questionnaire “I was born on February 12, 1809 in Kentucky … Abraham Lincoln call me” through the mystical strings of memory, telling of “… not bloody bullets, but peaceful voting” to the sincere lines of “Letters to Mrs. Bixby”, who lost in the war North and South of all five sons.

Thank you, the announcement is hidden.
Thank you, the announcement is hidden.

The final large part is the historical Gettysburg speech of Lincoln on November 19, 1863: “.. our fathers on this continent gave rise to a new nation born free …”

Michael Doherty’s music does not impress with originality, but it is easy to perceive. Folkloric motifs are heard in places, combinations of instrumental timbres are interesting in the accompaniment. Feels the author’s warm sympathy for the hero. And, of course, the best interpreter for the image of Abraham Lincoln than Thomas Hampson is hard to imagine. Although outwardly they are related only by a gigantic growth.

"Living legend" Thomas Hampson as the spiritual messenger of AmericaThomas Hampson. Photos – Ira Polar

The features of Lincoln, angularly exhausted on daguerreotypes, were transformed into the antique-perfect face of the operatic premiere of Hampson. The ability to convey all the nuances of speech by singing, the possession of “shalyapinsky” expressiveness of the word – one of the artist’s trump cards.

Unfortunately, his vocal form has already passed the zenith. Honestly standing in the proscenium microphone worked not only for recording, but also helped Mr. Hampson to cope with the orchestral tutti. By the way, the sound engineers of the Musical Theater sounded a subtle sound, giving the lyric baritone of the soloist a youthful silkiness, familiar to music lovers according to his long recordings.

The second branch can be conditionally classified as an “easy genre”, although all artists consider this lightness very insidious! Again, Leonard Bernstein, long ago a classic, is a senior friend and teacher of Thomas Hampson.

Two grotesque pieces from the Divertissement for Orchestra (1980) sounded temperamentally. Prickly in melodies, but the spectacular Aria from the musical “Dismissal to the City” (1944) – like a Hollywood retro, where pathos is balanced elegance.

Feeling of a measure and style was also distinguished by the sudden hypostasis of Hampson, who stood up for the conductor’s console with Three dances from the same “Layoff to the city”. Here again we should pay tribute to the orchestra and the cinematographically provocative, but complex plays, prepared by Valentin Uryupin, which prepared him.

The power of a true American, who feels Bernstein’s message at the genetic level, added to the execution of the drive, in spite of the chained manual technique of the maestro dilettante.

"Living legend" Thomas Hampson as the spiritual messenger of America

Thomas Hampson. Photos – Ira Polar

And how successful after the excursion into the adjacent genre were the singer’s three songs of Cole Porter! Pleasantly good was the first – Night and Day (1932), unexpectedly familiar, with a wide cantilena and irreproachable zaukovedenie. Two others: In the Still of the night (1937) and Begin the Beguine (1935), too, caressed with sentimental nostalgia, but Hampson’s voice showed fatigue.

On this official part of the program is over. Although the program included “Bonus from opera arias”, there were fears that even amicable applause would not encourage the artist to risk singing beyond his strength. However, the gallant chevalier Hampson led a young girl with a mandolin by the hand, and sunk: “Deh, vieni alla finestra »- serenade of Don Juan.

The truth is spoken by vocalists of the older generation: Mozart is a cure for voice. Surprise with a little piquancy was obtained when a handsome gray-haired handsome brought the next lady “incognito”, recognized by the regulars of MAMTA Natalia Muradymova.

The gay duo of Don Juan and Zerlina “La ci darem la mano”, thanks to the actor’s lively soprano, her obvious admiration for the famous partner and his manly admiration for the young vital colleague, right up to the hot “real” kisses, was the memorable final point of the concert.

"Living legend" Thomas Hampson as the spiritual messenger of America

Natalia Muradymova, Thomas Hampson and Valentin Uryupin. Photos – Ira Polar

Thank you, the announcement is hidden.
Thank you, the announcement is hidden.

Finally we were given another encore, Chardash Tasillo from “Maritsa” Kalman, but here we had to regret and only guess how gorgeous it sounded before. Plastic dance dancers of the artist on the dashing code of the orchestra somewhat brightened the impression.

The charm of the Personality, the joy of really seeing and hearing, finally, the “Living Legend”, warmed after the concert. Children’s naive thoughts did not leave. What if such an encyclopedic educated person and Musician, in which, according to Chekhov, everything is perfect – “a person, and clothes, and a soul, and thoughts,” would personify The American Spirit now in the White House?

And lest they blame the Russians for interfering in the election of the US President, I declare openly: Thomas Hampson is our candidate, from the party of world humanism.

Tatiana Elagina

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