Thomas Hampson first sang the role of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at the Metropolitan Opera on September 25, 2001, to great acclaim; the New York Times wrote, “Thomas Hampson is moving from strength to strength … . His Onegin was truly fine. His voice has deepened and taken on more power, and his connection with his roles seems ever more profound.” Hampson returns to the Met on January 30 for a run of seven performances (through Feb 21) opposite the luminous Karita Mattila as Tatyana, conducted by Jirí Belohlávek.
Performing in Russian, one of at least ten languages that he sings fluently, the versatile American baritone portrays Alexander Pushkin’s unlikeable hero, as interpreted by Tchaikovsky in his 1879 opera. Opera News had this to say about Hampson’s performance of Onegin in 2001:
Robert Carsen’s spare but richly poetic 1997 production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, sung in Russian, returned to the Met on September 25 in much-improved condition, due to new casting. Thomas Hampson’s subtly calibrated yet increasingly intense singing and acting in the title role made the most difference in upgrading the presentation. He seemed to miss nothing, capturing fully the anti-hero’s suavity in the first scene, his gentle and friendly yet firm and humiliating rejection of Tatyana’s love in the third scene, the conceit toward the party guests, as well as the blind rage at Lensky’s insults in Act II and the equally blind insanity of his futile pursuit of Tatyana in the last act. All this was sung with flawless discipline and charismatic, even glamorous tone." [Jan 2002]
It is unusual for the protagonist of such a deeply romantic opera to be so unlikeable, but the tragedy of the haughty man’s undoing – and his complete comprehension of his errors – makes for superb operatic drama.
In December, Hampson made his role debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Athanaël, opposite Renée Fleming in Massenet’s Thaïs. He recorded this opera with Ms. Fleming for Decca and previously performed the role with her in this same John Cox production at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2002. The New York Times found that for Hampson’s latest Met performances "he was in top form," and the Financial Times wrote, "Hampson sings the susceptible monk Athanaël with incisive urgency, verbal point, and unexpected power."
Thomas Hampson’s next New York appearance will be at the Met’s 125th Anniversary Gala on March 15, when he will perform the final scene of Wagner’s Parsifal with Plácido Domingo. Between the Onegin performances and the Met Gala, Hampson sings two performances of Mahler’s quintessentially Romantic song-cycle Songs of a Wayfarer with the Orchestre de Paris under Christoph Eschenbach.