The Very Best of Thomas Hampson (2 EMI CDs)

by | Jun 3, 2005 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

The Very Best of Thomas Hampson, 2 CDs, EMI Classics 586332 2, ****:

Thomas Hampson is still too young and has plenty of voice left in him
for this retrospective set to be issued; and yet most opera lovers will
not regret having purchased this rich collection of this versatile
baritone’s best singing.

Though only 50, Hampson has had a remarkable career at the Metropolitan
Opera, starting in 1986 with his Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro
and continuing to this day. And this CD set showcases his wide range of
virtuosic talents. From Verdian high drama to Meyerbeer’s
feathery-light songs, Hampson alights on these excerpts and lieder with
great ease and sophistication. His “Largo al factotum” (Il barbiere di
Siviglia), taken from a live recording made in 1992, is suave and
smooth. In Bizet’s well-loved aria “C’est toi . . . Au fond du temple
saint” (Les pêcheurs du perles), Hampson and Domingo sing as one voice,
both supply mirroring each other, but at different registers. In
Ambroise Thomas’s “Comme une pale fleur” (Hamlet), Hampson’s deep
rolling notes are hugely attractive, with some lovely pianissimo. The
second CD is a compilation of lieder and American songs, some of which
feature Viennese schmaltz. Nevertheless, one never tires of his velvety
baritone and phenomenal control. Hampson is always refined and
tasteful, reminiscent of the early-twentieth-century tenor Richard
Tauber, with whom he shares some of his repertoire.

-Dalia Geffen

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