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Considered to be one of the best baritones of our time, Thomas Hampson's voice has been compared to liquid gold and was described by one critic as being 'too beautiful to put into words'. Yet, unlike some other performers at the top of their field, he accepts his talent with humility and sees himself merely as being a bridge between the composer and the audience.

'There is a German voice teacher, Horst Günther, who got me started way back when. He is ninety two now and he still comes to some of my concerts. If there is something he doesn't like, he tells me so and then we sit together and work on it.'

There may not be too much to work on, voice-wise, these days, since Hampson can even pull off the most difficult roles, like Simon Boccanegra, in a way that leaves his audiences spellbound. But perhaps just as important as the quality of the baritone's voice is his willingness to be a pioneer in an art form where pioneers are few and far between these days.

Indeed, his understanding of music goes far beyond the call of duty for an operatic singer. Even the conductor, Mariss Jansons, allowed Hampson during rehearsals to address the orchestra directly and share with them the background of the song Rheinlegendchen, explaining precisely what the composer had meant to express and in which mood the piece should be played. The two men, both at the top of their respective fields, enjoy working with each other enormously.

Mariss Jansons (left) with Thomas Hampson in Munich. Photo © 2004 G Thum, all rights reserved.
Mariss Jansons (left) with Thomas Hampson in Munich. Photo © 2004 G Thum, all rights reserved.

'I just love Mariss Jansons,' Hampson said in Munich. 'I would do anything for him.' At the end of a long day of rehearsals, they goofed around for the photographer and stood hugging each other and entertaining the onlookers.

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Copyright © 18 April 2004 Tess Crebbin, Germany


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