Like tenor Jerry Hadley and soprano Dawn Upshaw, baritone Thomas Hampson is firmly rooted in the world of opera but frequently ventures into the more rarefied confines of the art song and the pop realm of musical theater. Just a shade over 40, this Indiana native won first place in the Metropolitan Opera’s annual competition in the early 80s, then left for Europe and landed at the Zurich Opera, where he became a protege of conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt. It’s easy to see why he was put into the Mozart cycle right away: he has a riveting stage presence and a sturdy, supple voice that can project vulnerable masculinity. A strong empathy, a sense of insatiable yearning, and a touch of bravado also mark his approach to lieder; for example, his invaluable compilation of obscure songs by Ives, Griffes, and MacDowell (Teldec) displays a striking blend of European sophistication and Yankee sincerity. (One of a handful of American singers whose CDs do brisk business, Hampson has succumbed to some blatantly commercial assignments, including a rather pleasant album of Christmas carols.) In two concerts at Ravinia this week Hampson will take on the lied meister of all time, Schubert. On Saturday, accompanied by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Christoph Eschenbach, he’ll present a rarity: seven of Schubert’s greatest songs orchestrated by Brahms, Offenbach, and Liszt (see Sarah Bryan Miller’s Critic’s Choice on Brahms’s German Requiem). And in a recital on Tuesday, accompanied by Eschenbach, he’ll embark on Schubert’s emotionally devastating cycle of 24 songs, Die Winterreise. Saturday (Pavilion) and Tuesday (Martin Theatre), 8 PM, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100. TED SHEN
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.