Last night in Milan, American baritone Thomas Hampson rocked La Scala in a recital program of Lieder, a stunning sampler of Schubert (Schwanengesan), Liszt, and Mahler (Des Knaben Wunderhorn). His only visit to Italy this season, it gave his Italian fans (who packed the house) a single night to catch him in full-on baritone action. OC was in the theater for the half-dozen encores and standing ovations that the Milanese public heaped on him, deservedly, a full review coming later.
Yesterday the American singer spoke to La Repubblica in an inteview about his Mahler and his eight-year-old foundation, Hampsong. He also spoke about being part of a generation (his Metropolitan Opera debut was in 1981) that has witnessed the opera industry's evolution. Unlike some of his colleagues, Hampson embraces new media (aside from social media, there's a Hampson ipad and iphone app), bridging the old school with the new. Really, it's what we'd expect from a singer who is known for his flexibility and versatility on stage and with repertory.
Off with a bang, Hampson on being compared to the great Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau: "Fischer-Dieskau has no heir. It's a huge compliment, and I thank you for it, but it's like saying that there's another Pavarotti or Callas. It's just impossible."
You're also a popular teacher. In what present condition is the relationship between young people and classical music?
"There's good news and bad news. The good news is that there are lots of awesomely good, young musicians that are entering the professional world of classical music, and the levels of instruction are much better than they've been for years. The bad news is that instead, they seem disinterested in the vehicles of communication like radio, newspapers, and television. The media's musical offerings and outlets have diminished and I don't understand the reason. And there are just way too few people under the age of 40 who come to the concerts and buy classical music CDs. Maybe it's because the media doesn't really affect them and probably because music gets perceived as too expensive, although personally, i don't think it's true."
So can the internet be used as a solution to spread information about classical music?
"Definitely. Especially for its ability to integrate lots of way to disseminate information, all at the same time: the vision, the audience, and the lessons. The internet is a frontier with thousands of possibilities, but it's also just one part of a series of technological advances that can be useful in the future. I believe that we're just at the beginning of this, and at present time ,the most interesting thing is the social network. But we have to figure out how to fall into the trap -- those which use technology or substitute it with certain traditional methods. So if the question is, 'Can you learn music over the internet?' the answer is, 'No.' If the question instead is, 'Can the internet help you expand your knowledge about music?' the answer is, "yes."