<< -- 3 -- Sissy von Kotzebue AN EVENING FULL OF HAMPSONGS
A Lied that Hampson is particularly fond of, Revelge (ie reveille, a military wake-up call), follows next. A tambour wounded in war is left to die by his comrades. When they die also, he resurrects them from the dead with his drum and together the ghostly company go to his sweetheart's house. In the morning, she is greeted by the dead troop standing at the door with the drum in front of them so she can identify him, presenting a last salute to her. The march rhythm hastens this eerie song's gradual descent into horror. Hampson says on his new Wunderhorn DVD that he sees the scenery with his inner eye while singing and transforms his internal pictures into sounds. So he achieves a subtle effect: the audience feels rather than sees the meaning of the text. 'In the final image, everything is black and white, only the drum is in color,' Hampson explains.
Astounding again are Hampson's vocal options displayed here, from ordinary chest voice to virtuous trills. Especially the chilling 'tralali, tralalei, tralala' that repeats in each verse is always sung differently, at the tambour's death with outraged accusation against man's inhumanity to man. In the final verse, it comes so cynically that the audience remains quiet for a few seconds after the last note because he has stunned them with his exceptional performance. Big applause follows and one seems unwilling to let Hampson and his partner Rieger go into their well-earned break.
Walking around during the break, people could be heard discussing the performance more than usual. 'He has such a great articulation' is one of the most heard compliments. 'Many singers -- even German ones -- could learn from him'. But, of course, the classic commentary was not missing: 'He is such a good-looking man, so male, so strong, so [you name it]!' Rieger, who has a large following of his own, also got some good comments flying around during the break: 'He is so good, he could be a concert pianist' (which he also is), or: 'Theirs is an excellent partnership -- this wouldn't work as well with someone else'.
A few audience members remarked on the programme. It is well structured, logically and voice-wise, as always, but it is unusual. Many singers often use the possibilities of a recital to sing standard songs where they can be sure to get much applause, even between the songs in a set. (Here you can read in the brochure: 'please do not interrupt the Lied groups with applause'.) A celebrity like Hampson can afford to do what he wants and so he goes far beyond the 'normal' intention of a concert. As one of the most intellectual singers in the world, he seems to follow a didactic plan. The audience is forced to listen, fully concentrated, uninterrupted by applause, and to reflect upon what they hear. Hampson is big on pedagogy and, subtly, he gets in a lesson or two: history, composition and, not least, the art of singing Lied. This is characteristic of Hampson's work: one always gets more than one pays for from this baritone who performs way beyond the call of duty.
Copyright © 24 July 2004
Sissy von Kotzebue, Munich, Germany