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Thomas Hampson’s long, thriving career on both sides of the Atlantic has established him as one of the most successful and versatile operatic baritones in the world. More than that, he is regarded as an emblematic figure in US opera – an articulate spokesman, championing its heritage, shaping its future and acting as an example to successive generations of young talent. Michael White talks to an all- American singer with a distinctly European perspective on his art

Bearing in mind how difficult it was for Donald Trump to find anyone prepared to sing at his inauguration (he was turned down even by Andrea Bocelli), it’s inconceivable that his advisers weren’t out chasing the standard, all- American operatic A-List. Somewhere at the top of that list, and no stranger to performing at the White House, would have been Thomas Hampson. For the past 30 years, Hampson has been the emblematic, go-to lyric baritone of North America and something of a poster-boy (though at the age of 61 he qualifies as ‘man’) for serious singing in the New World.

Handsome, smooth, sophisticated, intellectually sharp and politically astute, he’s what anyone would want to lend their presidential gig the necessary style and gravitas. So when we met to talk (and Hampson certainly can talk) at Covent Garden during his pre-Christmas run of all the villains in Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann, there were two questions I couldn’t resist. Had he been approached? And what would his response be?

Needless to say, I didn’t get a straightforward response: Hampson doesn’t do straight answers. He delivers discourse – with conviction, forethought, and a complicated if assertive eloquence that keeps you on your toes. It felt as if I were being viva’d for a First at Oxford.

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About Opera Now

Baritone Thomas Hampson discusses his influential role as ambassador for opera and the art of singing; composer John Adams on turning 70 and his new opera about the California Gold Rush; Grange Park Opera gets ready for its relaunch at Britain's newest opera house; and the indomitable prowess of the great American soprano Leontyne Price. Plus, introducing a new opera inspired by Pink Floyd's The Wall; movement and pictures in the stagings of Japanese-born director Anna Etsuko Tsuri; the revelations of Dame Felicity Lott; American opera in the age of Trump; a weekend in Boston; and our pick of the best new works coming up stateside.