November 17, 1995 in Seven

Local Hero Thomas Hampson Returns For A Spokane Performance

Travis Rivers Correspondent
 

Some observers claim his manner seems arrogant and pretentious. Others accuse his interpretations of being needlessly fussy.

But you don’t hear much nattering like that about Thomas Hampson in Spokane. Here, the world-renowned operatic baritone is a local hero just as he is an international hero to the vast majority of opera fans, vocal recital buffs and record buyers everywhere. In Spokane, musicians remember hearing Hampson’s youthful talent grow into mature artistry. People recognize his generosity shown by the time he devotes to working with young singers, and they recall Hampson funding a scholarship honoring his teacher, Sr. Marietta Coyle.

Hampson is back in Spokane to sing again with the Spokane Symphony. Tonight’s Opera House concert will mark Hampson’s ninth performance with the symphony since he made his debut in a 1974 production of “Hansel and Gretel.” Tonight, instead of the usual selection of opera arias singers frequently chose, Hampson will sing Frederick Delius’s rarely performed “Sea Drift” with the symphony and the Symphony Chorale, along with Ravel’s three songs, “Don Quichotte a Dulcinee.”

Conductor Fabio Mechetti has selected Debussy’s symphonic portrait of the sea, “La Mer,” to complement “Sea Drift,” Delius’s setting of Walt Whitman’s yearning verses about love and the sea.

Hampson recently recorded “Sea Drift” with the Welsh National Opera Orchestra under Charles Mackerras on the Argo label. This recording joins more than 70 albums in the Hampson discography issued in the seven years since his recording debut on the Teldec label with a recital of songs from “Des Knaben Wunderhorn.” Since then, Hampson’s recordings have earned him six Grammy nominations, three Edison Prizes and three Gramophone Awards, as well several other awards and prizes from French and German critics.

Spokane claims the 40-year-old baritone as a native son. Actually, he was born in Elkhart, Ind., but he grew up in Eastern Washington, and graduated from Eastern Washington University with a major in government and from Ft. Wright College with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in vocal performance.

Sr. Marietta Coyle, his teacher at Ft. Wright, had an uncommon ear for vocal talent. Hampson has been simply the most remarkably successful of local singers whose gifts she was the first to identify. Coyle’s demanding teaching set Hampson on the road that would lead him to a Young Artist Award in the 1978 Spokane Festival of Music and Allied Arts and would eventually make him the baritone-of-choice for the world’s great opera houses.

After winning the Metropolitan Opera Auditions in 1981, Hampson traveled the well-worn path of young American singers to provincial opera houses in Europe, but unlike most of his compatriots, he went on to the stages of major houses such as the Metropolitan Opera, the Vienna State Opera and Covent Garden. He recorded Puccini and Mahler with Leonard Bernstein, Bach and Mozart with Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Mendelssohn with Robert Shaw. He has appeared on television singing alongside Luciano Pavarotti and Kathleen Battle.

Last season in San Francisco, Hampson created the role of Vicomte de Valmont in Conrad Susa’s new opera, “The Dangerous Liaisons.” The versatility of Hampson’s stylistic grasp is further documented in a recorded output that embraces musicals by Irving Berlin and songs by Cole Porter and Stephen Foster, as well as those welladvertised albums of Christmas favorites alongside Bach cantatas, Mahler song cycles, and opera roles from Monteverdi to Henze.

In addition to his performance tonight with the symphony, Hampson presented a masterclass for singers at Whitworth College on Tuesday and spoke Wednesday on the symphony’s “Lunch ‘n’ Learn” noontime series at the Spokane Public Library.

The pre-concert talk tonight will be given at 7 in the Opera House Auditorium by Randi Ellefson, chorusmaster of the Spokane Symphony Chorale.

MEMO: Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. Thomas Hampson with the Spokane Symphony Orchestra Location and time: Opera House, tonight, 8 Tickets: $29-$39, available at the Symphony box office on the skywalk level of the Seafirst Building, 624-1200, and G&B; Select a Seat, 325-SEAT. Only a few tickets remain.

2. THE ROAD TO FAME 1955 Born in Elkhart, Ind. 1974 Makes his debut with the Spokane Symphony in “Hansel and Gretel.” 1978 Wins the Young Artist Award at the Spokane Music and Allied Arts Festival. 1981 Sings in the Spokane Symphony production of “La Boheme,” wins the Met Auditions in New York, becomes a member of the Deutsche Oper-am-Rhein in Dusseldorf. 1982 Makes his debut with the St. Louis Opera in “Cosi fan tutte,” creates the title role in Hans Werner Henze’s “Prinz von Homburg.” 1984 Joins the Zurich Opera as its principal lyric baritone. 1986 Makes his New York recital debut in Town Hall, makes his Vienna State Opera debut, makes his Metropolitan Opera debut as the Count in “Marriage of Figaro.” 1987 Sings his first “Don Giovanni” in a Harnoncourt-Ponnelle production in Zurich. 1988 Begins a series of Mahler recordings with Leonard Bernstein. 1989 Makes his Berlin debut with the Deutsche Opera. 1990 Releases his first recital album “Des Knaben Wunderhorn,” makes his San Francisco Opera debut in Monteverdi’s “Il Ritorno di Ulisse.” 1991 Opens the New York Philharmonic season with a live broadcast from Lincoln Center under Kurt Masur. 1992 Opens the Chicago Symphony season singing Brahms’ “Deutsche Requiem.” 1993 Makes his debut at London’s Covent Garden in “Barber of Seville,” gives recital, concert and masterclasses at the Tanglewood Festival, receives an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Whitworth College. 1994 Creates the role of Vicomte de Valmont in “The Dangerous Liaisons,” records Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” with the Atlanta Symphony. 1995 Performs all Mahler’s songs at the Mahler Festival in Amsterdam.

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. Thomas Hampson with the Spokane Symphony Orchestra Location and time: Opera House, tonight, 8 Tickets: $29-$39, available at the Symphony box office on the skywalk level of the Seafirst Building, 624-1200, and G&B; Select a Seat, 325-SEAT. Only a few tickets remain.

2. THE ROAD TO FAME 1955 Born in Elkhart, Ind. 1974 Makes his debut with the Spokane Symphony in “Hansel and Gretel.” 1978 Wins the Young Artist Award at the Spokane Music and Allied Arts Festival. 1981 Sings in the Spokane Symphony production of “La Boheme,” wins the Met Auditions in New York, becomes a member of the Deutsche Oper-am-Rhein in Dusseldorf. 1982 Makes his debut with the St. Louis Opera in “Cosi fan tutte,” creates the title role in Hans Werner Henze’s “Prinz von Homburg.” 1984 Joins the Zurich Opera as its principal lyric baritone. 1986 Makes his New York recital debut in Town Hall, makes his Vienna State Opera debut, makes his Metropolitan Opera debut as the Count in “Marriage of Figaro.” 1987 Sings his first “Don Giovanni” in a Harnoncourt-Ponnelle production in Zurich. 1988 Begins a series of Mahler recordings with Leonard Bernstein. 1989 Makes his Berlin debut with the Deutsche Opera. 1990 Releases his first recital album “Des Knaben Wunderhorn,” makes his San Francisco Opera debut in Monteverdi’s “Il Ritorno di Ulisse.” 1991 Opens the New York Philharmonic season with a live broadcast from Lincoln Center under Kurt Masur. 1992 Opens the Chicago Symphony season singing Brahms’ “Deutsche Requiem.” 1993 Makes his debut at London’s Covent Garden in “Barber of Seville,” gives recital, concert and masterclasses at the Tanglewood Festival, receives an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Whitworth College. 1994 Creates the role of Vicomte de Valmont in “The Dangerous Liaisons,” records Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” with the Atlanta Symphony. 1995 Performs all Mahler’s songs at the Mahler Festival in Amsterdam.

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