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Thomas Hampson launches summer of anniversaries as Simon Boccanegra at ROH

Baritone Thomas Hampson brings the Verdi bicentennial into focus this summer when he reprises two signature roles, headlining Simon Boccanegra at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (June 27-July 16) and singing Rodrigo in the Salzburg Festival’s new Don Carlo (Aug 13-28), as well as singing Verdi favorites in concert with tenor Rolando Villazón in Munich (July 6). Both opera productions will be led by Antonio Pappano, with whom the baritone also looks forward to celebrating the 100th anniversary of Britten’s birth at the Salzburg Festival, where they will present the English composer’s harrowing War Requiem (Aug 18). And Hampson pays tribute to Wagner’s bicentennial when he undertakes Amfortas in Parsifal at the Bayerische Staatsoper under Kent Nagano (July 31).
The contribution to opera made by Giuseppe Verdi, born two centuries ago this year in October of 1813, can scarcely be calculated. As for the appeal of his music to Hampson as an interpreter, the singer explains: “Verdi has such an astounding understanding of human nature and he always finds, in his mature operas at least, the way to articulate that in his musical language.” At London’s Covent Garden this summer the baritone reprises the title role of Simon Boccanegra, in a revival of last October’s production at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, about which the Chicago Tribune observed: “At a time when true Verdi baritones are a rare commodity, he gave an impressive and deeply considered performance in this touchstone Verdi role.” As then, the London staging comes courtesy of Elijah Moshinsky, whose direction Hampson reports having “very much learned to trust.” The Tribune confirms: “Moshinsky set forth the dark, complicated story with commendable directness and restraint, honoring Verdi’s dramatic purposes.”
Hampson will head a strong cast at Covent Garden, featuring Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto, dubbed “today’s reigning Fiesco” (Chicago Tribune), and Abkhazian/Russian soprano Hibla Gerzmava – “the most remarkable new talent encountered in many a year” (Opera Today) – as Amelia Grimaldi. Leading from the podium will be Antonio Pappano, whom Hampson considers “one of the greatest opera conductors of our time,” and whose leadership of Verdi’s La traviata at the Royal Opera House in 2009, also starring the baritone and since issued on disc, boasted “quality as befits a major international house” (Independent, UK). In the midst of their six London dates, Pappano will lead Hampson and the cast in a concert performance of the opera with the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in Birmingham on July 7.
Hampson and Pappano reunite for their second Verdi opera of the summer at the Salzburg Festival, where the baritone makes six appearances as Rodrigo in a new production of Don Carlo from venerable German director Peter Stein. German tenor Jonas Kaufmann sings the title role, with soprano Anja Harteros – the first German to win the Cardiff Singer of the World competition – as Elisabetta di Valois. Hampson’s many previous collaborations with Pappano include an acclaimed EMI Classics DVD/CD set of the opera, which was recorded live at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.
It is also with selected arias and duets from Don Carlo that the baritone joins Rolando Villazón to salute Verdi in concert, with Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra at Munich’s Odeonsplatz.
As with Verdi, this year represents a milestone anniversary for Benjamin Britten, who was born in November 1913. A lifelong pacifist whose earliest memories were of the First World War years, the English composer incorporated war poems by his compatriot Wilfred Owen into the War Requiem, his non-liturgical setting of the requiem mass. At the Salzburg Festival this summer, Hampson will sing the role of the German Soldier with Anna Netrebko and Ian Bostridge as his fellow soloists, supported by Pappano and the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. After Hampson’s account of the work at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 2008, Music-Web International admired “Pappano’s command of the orchestra,” and observed: “Bostridge and Thomas Hampson’s German Soldier make for an intriguingly complementary pair, given the latter’s habitual patrician air and his richly burnished tone.”
The bicentennial of Richard Wagner’s birth fell last month. Rounding out Hampson’s summer of anniversaries is a revival of Peter Konwitschny’s “near perfect” (Sunday Times, UK) take on the arch-Romantic’s final opera, Parsifal, at the Bavarian State Opera. As the New York Times noted when the baritone sang the ruler of the Grail kingdom at the Met, “Hampson has made something of a specialty of the agonized, desperate Amfortas.” Conducted by Kent Nagano, the upcoming Munich production will also star British tenor Christopher Ventris – following his “excellent” (Telegraph, UK) account of the part in Bayreuth – in the title role.
A list of Hampson’s upcoming engagements follows, and additional information is available at
Thomas Hampson: summer engagements
June 27; July 1, 3, 10, 13 & 16
London, UK
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House / Antonio Pappano
Verdi: Simon Boccanegra (title role)
July 6
Munich, Germany
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus / Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Verdi: arias and duets in concert
With Rolando Villazón, tenor
July 7
Birmingham, UK
Town Hall & Symphony Hall
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House / Antonio Pappano
Verdi: Simon Boccanegra in concert (title role)
July 31
Munich, Germany
Bayerische Staatsoper
Bavarian State Orchestra / Kent Nagano
Wagner: Parsifal (Amfortas)
Aug 13, 16, 19, 22, 25 & 28
Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg Festival
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Antonio Pappano
Verdi: Don Carlo (Rodrigo)
Aug 18
Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg Festival
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia / Antonio Pappano
Britten: War Requiem (German soldier)
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© 21C Media Group, June 2013

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