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Subject: Re: Hampson destroying .... Luisotti the biggest scourge of all
From: Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 12 Mar 2017 18:25:58 -0700

text/plain (206 lines)

With all the comment on Thomas Hampson, let me first state that he has been
a magnificent singer in many different styles over the years.  It was
always a superb lyric baritone and in the right role and especially as a
singer of songs, he has really been wonderful.

When he opened his mouth to sing yesterday my reaction was that it is
time.  Every singer has to know when to go.  Hampson is now 62 and while I
am sure he could sing on in recital, the time for big roles, especially
Verdi, is over.  As has been said, these contracts are made years ahead and
any singer who reaches his mid fifties should think twice about what he can
sing five years down the pike.  Singers today seem to be starting later and
singing longer, many times too long.  Rare is the singer like Varnay or
Rysanek or even Domingo, who can adapt and change fach and continue on.
And when Varnay and Rysanek sang mezzo, they still remained dramatic
soprano's, just singing in a lower tessitura.

So, cut the guy some slack.

As for the production, I never thought I would like it from the advance
word, but each time I have seen it, it worked.  The biggest problem with
Traviata in 1853 was that it was sent in modern times and they had to set
it in in the 18th century in some early performances.  So, putting it  in
the 20th century really didn't both me.  There were things in the direction
that I found interesting and I really like the idea of Grenvil being around
so much - sort of like the angel of death?  I heard Netrebko in this
production.  Yoncheva was good.  Vocally, there were places here and there
that didn't quite land right or on pitch, but it was good.  Likewise, I
liked Michael Fabiano.  I heard so much about his precarious vocal
condition lately that I was pleased he did well.  BTW, I would have loved
to have heard Callas or Zeani in this production.


On Sun, Mar 12, 2017 at 5:26 PM, Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> 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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