Verdi: Arias

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WORKS: Arias
PERFORMER: Thomas Hampson (baritone), Timothy Robinson, Daniil Shtoda (tenor); Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Richard Armstrong
Though his early operatic successes were in Mozart and French repertoire, Thomas Hampson has developed into a Verdi baritone to reckon with. The voice is as mellow, rounded and immaculately groomed as ever; yet, on this showing, it has now acquired deeper, darker resonances and, where appropriate, a more incisive edge. Typically, his programme is enterprisingly devised, mixing familiar items with some real rarities. One of the finest performances here comes in the aria from the little-known Stiffelio, where Hampson not only spins a noble, perfectly even line (a hallmark of his singing throughout the disc), but graphically conveys the outraged father’s mingled nostalgia, indignation and suicidal despair. His invariably elegant moulding of Verdi’s ornaments and cadenzas is heard in an ardent yet refined ‘Il balen’ from Il trovatore and Carlo’s meditation on the illusion of earthly power from Ernani. One role here, Macbeth, would seem to lie just beyond Hampson’s vocal grasp: for all his sensitivity to colouring, he can’t quite muster either the self-lacerating bitterness needed for ‘Pietà, rispetto’, or the megalomaniacal venom of ‘Vada in fiamme’, which here sounds altogether too sane and controlled. Elsewhere, though – including a terrific performance of Carlo’s apocalyptic aria from I masnadieri – Hampson’s singing and thoughtful characterisation provide virtually unalloyed pleasure. Under Richard Armstrong, the period-instrument orchestra accompanies vividly, its clean-edged textures heightening the bold primary colours of Verdi’s orchestration. Richard Wigmore