In January, baritone Thomas Hampson took time out from singing the role of the Four Villains in Les Contes d'Hoffmann at the Metropolitan Opera to give a master class for four Juilliard voice students—and viewers who watched a live-stream of the class. The next day, Hampson took over the Juilliard Twitter feed to answer questions, which are excerpted here.
#ThomasatJuilliard as a baritone, what is the worst mistake you consider one can make while training? Thank you.
Pushing the voice from below. It is always best to work from the top down and from a light adjustment to a heavier adjustment.
Do you have suggestions for building balance, tone, and resonance when singing with a chest voice?
Difficult to answer in 140 characters ;-) Your voice has various resonances that should all vibrate together.
The highest resonance should be in lowest tones and vice versa. It's dangerous to think of your voice in different pieces.
Hello! Especially in short master class settings, how do you pinpoint problems & solutions?
As carefully as possible. In a positive but very specific framework. Confusion helps no one.
For a male singer, approaching 30, looking to jumpstart a solo vocal career, what would you suggest?
Practice! ;-))) No substitute for the right teacher. 30 is young—sing well in your repertoire. Good luck!!
What is your opinion on 21st century- composed operas?
There are not enough. We must support our composers in every genre unconditionally. Write me 21st cent. Don Giovanni :-)
What do you consider when selecting songs or roles to perform?
Everything. Do I understand it? Can I sing it? If it doesn't resonate with me, I probably won't bring it alive for others.
What is/are your favorite role(s) to perform on stage?
Seriously.... the one I am singing. I am fortunate to devote my energies 100% to that which I believe in.
What is the first step you take in learning new repertoire?
Translate, understand context, learn musical language of composer. Learn text in rhythmic structure of the opera.
How long does it take to learn a new role? Do you approach each one differently in preparation?
Yes, each opera must be approached uniquely. Music, language, length, complexity of psychology etc. This determines study time.
What suggestions do you have for maintaining a more mature voice (55+)?
Bravo! Yoga, warm up every day, quietly first. Sing as beautifully as possible. Legato! Let drama come from your experience.
How do you overcome adversity?
Never give up! ;-)
Congratulations to the students yesterday. I had a great time. Hope to see you all soon. I am off to @MetOpera! Cheers, TH