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Subject: Re: Hampson destroying .... Luisotti the biggest scourge of all
From: Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 12 Mar 2017 17:26:01 -0700

text/plain (105 lines)

Hampson did sing Posa in “Don Carlos” in French, very famously some 20 years ago in the Paris production conducted by Pappano with Alagna, Mattila and Meier.  I think his years for that are past. He’s also been singing Germont for some years.

He’s sung a large number of Verdi roles during the past decade or so, including Simon Boccanegra, Macbeth, Renato and Iago. To me, he’s never sounded right in any of these in much the same way that Fischer-Dieskau never sounded (to me) right in Verdi roles. Too much evident puffing up and artificially darkening the sound.

The one role that, even though an older character, does fit in very well for a high lyric baritone is Germont. It’s the most lyrically written and sits high enough to be comfortable for the high lyric voice type. Unfortunately, after years of doing the “big boy” parts, Hampson’s time for Germont seems also to have passed.

Some 20+ years ago, his voice struck me as being something of a “mezzo-tenor,” not unlike Fischer-Dieskau but with a fuller and more robust sound. In the early 90’s, I heard a broadcast of a recital in which he sang Siegmund’s “Winterstürme” and it sounded terrific. That made him very well adapted to the very high baritone literature, like the Mahler orchestral songs (“Songs of a Wayfarer” sitting ideally for him) and, while it might not have worked well for him on stage, his voice category would have been ideal for Pelleas. He also did very well with Mozart and some Rossini.

I think high baritones have a problem in general when it comes to aging. The roles (other than Germont) for this kind of “cavalier baritone” are generally young, handsome men who can cut a dashing figure on stage. It’s somewhat parallel to the situation for coloratura sopranos who are supposed to be young, pretty “pert” characters. What do they do when they pass 40 or, worse, 50?

Often, they try to make their voices into something that they aren’t. Very rarely works. Some people’s voices naturally darken and fill out the lower register, which allows them a convincing transition of repertoire, but it doesn’t happen to all, by any means.

Max Paley

> On Mar 12, 2017, at 2:02 PM, John Rahbeck <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I thought I would throw a little perspective into the conversation. Here  
> are some facts and thoughts to consider. Many times the quality of the  
> conducting can ruin a performance, especially if the singers are somewhat  
> miscast or on the decline, and some conductors are notorious for  bombasticly 
> drowning out the singers. I do agree that singing an  aria is not the same thing 
> as singing a role, however one must take a total  career into 
> consideration, and Thomas Hampson has had a considerable one. How we  love to worship our 
> singers at the top of their game, and how we love to condemn  and kick them 
> when them when they make a bad decision, and how the sharks  circle when 
> they smell blood and are pushing the next generation into  place. 
> There are other things to consider as well. It's called money.  It costs a 
> company a lot of money to buy out a singer, and it costs a singer a  lot of 
> money to cancel. Often neither the company nor the singer can afford it.  
> Not only is the company legally bound to buy out the performer if they  
> decide to replace them, they have to pay for the replacement as well. There  are 
> singers on the decline who would gladly retire if they could afford  it.
> With all this said, I did not see or hear this performance and  cannot 
> make a judgement on it, but I have seen and heard these performers  including 
> the conductor in other venues, and thought the casting odd. I can't  imagine 
> Hampson in most Verdi roles. I also disagree he is a tenor. I hear a  
> passaggio that either requires a mixed voice or full cover on an F. If he was a  
> tenor, he wouldn't have to do that until F#. He's really smooth in how he  
> transitions into his high notes. Men who mix rather than cover avoid the 
> "turn"  or "cover" or whatever you want to call it to reach the higher notes  and 
> can have a lighter tenor like sound, but it's really the passaggio  that 
> determines a voice type. Romantic Italian literature was written for  fully 
> turned chested high notes. That being said, almost every great  artist has 
> made a major mistake in experimenting with new roles. If a  singer sticks to a 
> small repertoire, they are chided for not branching out.  If they branch out 
> and make a mistake, they are condemned as well, so I  think we should cut 
> the guy some slack. 
> And here's another thing to consider, there are many fine lyric baritones,  
> but it's extremely difficult to find a real Verdi baritone. They may be the 
> rarest of all birds, and they have to cast somebody to fill the gap.  
> Sometimes with a sensitive conductor a more lyric baritone can do some  justice 
> to a Verdi role. I think if I were to hear Hampson in Verdi, I  would prefer 
> to hear him as Posa in Don Carlo than Germont. I think he  would do 
> especially well in the French Don Carlo. I would pay to  see that.
> John Rahbeck   
> In a message dated 3/12/2017 6:21:04 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time,  
> [log in to unmask] writes:
> Certainly during rehearsal problems with Hampson--and to a  lesser degree 
> Fabiano and Yoncheva should have been noted and corrections  made.  If the 
> orchestra was playing too loudly and forcing the  singers above their 
> abilities, someone should have spoken to the  conductor.  If the singers 
> are 
> out of sorts and are having a moment  in their singing careers, take them 
> aside and let them know you understand  but....bring in someone else.  That 
> doesn't mean banish them from the  Met forever;  it means for this 
> production 
> the art matters more than  the individual.  That's what an artistic 
> director 
> is paid to do,  isn't it?
> **********************************************
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