Thomas Hampson: Verdi
Arias and scenes from Macbeth, Ernani, I due Foscari, Il corsaro, Le Trouv╦re, Les V═pres siciliennes, I masnadieri, Stiffelio, La traviata and Giovanna d'Arco.
Thomas Hampson, baritone (with Timothy Robinson and Daniil Shtoda, tenors); Orchestra of the Age of Enlightment, Richard Armstrong, cond.

EMI 57113(F) (DDD) TT: 64:51

This new Verdi recital by American baritone Thomas Hampson offers an attractive mixture of familiar and less frequently performed repertoire. For example, the disc opens with Macbeth's glorious "Pietà, rispetto, amore" and closes with "Vada in fiamma," the rousing cabaletta that ends Act III of the original, 1846 version of Verdi's first Shakespearean opera. "Di Provenza" from La traviata joins arias from I due Foscari, I masnadieri, and the French version of Il trovatore.

Like Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Thomas Hampson has enjoyed an active career both as a song recitalist and operatic performer. But unlike much of Fischer-Dieskau's forays into Verdi repertoire, Hampson resists the urge to impose a lieder singer's micro-management upon the text and vocal line. There is plenty of dramatic involvement to be sure. Rarely, if ever, does Hampson disrupt the flow of Verdi's music.

In addition this recital finds Hampson in fine vocal estate. In particular, the middle of the voice has an attractive and virile warmth that serves the music quite well. The baritone's clear diction and fine legato are notable assets.  On the other hand it must be acknowledged that the voice is not one of extraordinary power. Nor does it offer outstanding richness at its extremes. But Hampson, intelligent singer that he is, does not press himself beyond his limits.

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under the direction of Richard Armstrong provides accompaniment that is long on energy and rather short on detail and subtlety. Tenor Daniel Shtoda is impressive in his brief appearance as Alfredo in Hampson's performance of the elder Germont's aria and cabaletta from La traviata.  The recorded sound offers a realistic balance between soloist and orchestra. The accompanying booklet includes an essay by Charles Osborne, brief plot synopses, as well as texts and translations.  Overall, an honest, commendable effort by an important artist.

K.M. (May 2001)