March 06, 2019
Thomas Hampson as The Merry Widow's Count Danilo
In Lehár’s extravagantly romantic, world-famous operetta The Merry Widow, the heroine of the title, Hanna Glawari, loses her heart to a charmer of the first order. If you’re going to portray Count Danilo Danilovich, of course you need a gleaming baritone with especially terrific high notes — but that’s just the first of many requirements. A matchlessly debonair appearance enters into the picture as well, and with that, you’d better boast the kind of charisma that can hold every woman onstage — and in the audience — instantly in your thrall. There’s also the ability to put across one-liners with the effortlessness of a seasoned stand-up comic, and of course, you’ll need to kick up your heels with ease when those glorious Lehár waltzes start playing. Above all, there’s an innate kind of elegance about this aristocratic leading man that only the greatest Danilos possess.
Thomas Hampson is the personification of elegance. In his singing, his appearance, his whole “aura” as a performer, he exudes a special kind of classiness. It’s brought him a universal admiration that few performers enjoy. While there aren’t that many leading roles for him in Viennese operetta (the heroes are usually tenors), he relishes the melodies of that repertoire, and the role of Danilo fits him like a glove. He's appeared exclusively in powerfully dramatic operas at Lyric (Thaïs, La traviata, Macbeth, Simon Boccanegra, Parsifal), so it will be a huge treat for our audiences to see and hear him for the first time in a lighthearted comedy — one in which he actually gets the girl at the end!
Perhaps the greatest achievement of Hampson’s illustrious career is that he’s never stopped growing as an artist. After more than three decades of professional singing, he still exudes a musical and intellectual curiosity that is truly in a class by itself. It would be easy for him to ease up, to coast, to rest on the laurels he’s earned as an artist equally celebrated in opera, concerts, and recitals. But he’s busier than ever, with performances in the most prestigious venues (Munich’s Gasteig, Vienna’s Konzerthaus, Milan’s La Scala, and more — and that was in October 2015 alone!) He’ll soon be leading an educator workshop at the University of Michigan sponsored by his Hampsong Foundation, and in January he’ll take on his latest world premiere, playing the great explorer Roald Amundsen in Mirsoslav Srnka’s South Pole at Munich’s Bavarian State Opera.
Music is Thomas Hampson’s raison d’être. Whether in his vast discography and videography, in his live performances, his speeches and workshops, or the extraordinary collaborative projects he’s spearheaded with major performing-arts organizations (especially regarding the joys of American song repertoire), this is an artist who’s making a difference in the world. All of us at Lyric look forward to welcoming him back to our stage!