Thomas Hampson is a singer, actor, scholar, teacher, passionate golf player, avid collector of books and a committed advocate of new technologies.
Born in Elkhart, Indiana, he was raised in Spokane, Washington, and educated at Eastern Washington University, Cheney, and Fort Wright College, Spokane. He began his professional career as a voice student of Sr. Marietta Coyle, and at the age of 19 first appeared in an opera production – portraying a very youthful father of the two title characters in Humperdinck’s “Hansel und Gretel”. During the following years Thomas Hampson studied with Martial Singher, Horst Gunter and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. In 1980 he came to Europe and had his first permanent engagement at Dusseldorf’s Deutsche Oper am Rhein. Four years later he joined the roster of the Zurich Opera where he collaborated frequently with Jean-Pierre Ponnelle and Nikolaus Harnoncourt and where he has since appeared every season.
Thomas Hampson’s encounter with Leonard Bernstein, whom he met a few years before his death, had an equally strong impact on his life and career and led the way to his becoming one of today’s leading interpreters of the music of Gustav Mahler. His passion for the lied repertoire, however, is not restricted to the German Romantics from Schubert to Wolf and Richard Strauss – he has devoted himself especially to composers of his native country and has initiated and been involved in a number of concert series and recordings as well as TV and multimedia projects. Chief among these has been a 12-city US recital tour in the 2005–06 season, with pianists Wolfram Rieger and Craig Rutenberg, entitled “Song of America” and presented in collaboration with the Library of Congress. The concerts were dedicated entirely to American art song repertoire, and the tour will continue in 2008.
Song and singing to Thomas Hampson are the “diary of our existence” and therefore of the greatest significance for intercultural dialogue and understanding. To provide a forum for this kind of exchange, he in 2003 established the HAMPSONG Foundation. Its internet platform, www.hampsong.org, not only serves as an archive of his own activities as a musician and scholar but also makes available the results of these activities – in the form of essays, images, audio and video material – to a larger audience.
If as a lied singer Thomas Hampson has set new standards, his musical versatility has allowed him to be equally successful in opera, operetta, oratorio and musical theater. His repertoire includes the title roles of “Don Giovanni”, “Il barbiere di Siviglia”, “Guillaume Tell”, “Macbeth”, “Simon Boccanegra”, “Eugene Onegin”, Ambroise Thomas’s “Hamlet”, Massenet’s “Werther” (in the baritone version), Busoni’s “Doktor Faust”, Szymanowski’s “King Roger”, Britten’s “Billy Budd”, Hans Werner Henze’s “Der Prinz von Homburg”, and Friedrich Cerha’s opera “Der Riese vom Steinfeld” which had its world premiere in Vienna in 2002. In addition, Thomas Hampson has sung the Count in “Le nozze di Figaro”, Giorgio Germont, Renato, Marquis of Posa, Wolfram, Amfortas, Mandryka, Oreste in Gluck’s “Iphigenie en Tauride”, and Athanael in Massenet’s “Thais”. In these and various other roles he has made guest appearances at the world’s major opera houses while being particularly associated with, aside from the Zurich Opera, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the San Francisco Opera, the Opйra National de Paris, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and the Vienna State Opera.
Thomas Hampson’s numerous recordings include most of his opera roles and cover a broad stylistic range, from Monteverdi’s “Vespro della Beata Vergine” and cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach, which he recorded at the beginning of his career with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, to Felix Mendelssohn’s oratorios “Paulus” and “Elijah” as well as works by Walton, Vaughan Williams, Frederick Delius, Maurice Durufle and American composer Elinor Remick Warren, to operettas by Franz Lehar and Johann Strauss, to musical theater works by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and Leonard Bernstein. Most of these recordings have won distinguished prizes, among them the Grammy and the Gramophone Award, the Grand Prix du Disque, the Edison Prize, and the Echo Klassik.
Thomas Hampson has been awarded several honorary doctorates, honorary membership in the Royal Academy of Music, the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, and the Austrian Honorary Medal (Ehrenkreuz) for Science and Art.
Thomas Hampson official website www.hampsong.com