Hampson and Pisaroni prove a delightful dueling duo in “No Tenors Allowed”

February 2, 2019 at 12:14 pm

By Aaron Keebaugh

Thomas Hampson and Luca Pisaroni performed Friday night at xx Hall for the Celebrity Series. Photo: Robert Torres

Thomas Hampson and Luca Pisaroni performed Friday night at xx Hall for the Celebrity Series. Photo: Robert Torres

“Anything you can do, I can do better,” sang baritone Thomas Hampson in his joint Celebrity Series recital at Jordan Hall Friday night, addressing the other guy with him on stage. “I can do anything better than you.”

“No you can’t!” his son-in-law Luca Pisaroni retorted, his bass-baritone voice ringing.

“Yes I can!”

“No you can’t!”

And so it went as two singers teased, challenged, and upstaged one another.

Though it came at the end, Irving Berlin’s “Anything You Can Do,” from Annie Get Your Gun, captured the essence of the evening. Through a program of arias, operatic scenes, and popular songs entitled “No Tenors Allowed,” Hampson and Pisaroni found humor, conflict, tragedy, triumph and, yes, in-law competition.

With their rich, lyrical voices and acting abilities showcased by simple, effective staging, the duo transformed what looked to be a traditional recital into an attractive set of dramatic musical performances. Hampson and Pisaroni make a delightful pair.

Each rose to fame singing lead roles in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni, and Friday’s program offered delectable picks from both. Hampson delivered a bell-toned “Hai già vinta la causa” as an answer to Pisaroni’s darkly projected “Non piú andrai” from Figaro. As Don Giovanni and Leporello, Hampson and Pisaroni respectively brought an amusing sense of rivalry to “Eh via buffone.” Pisaroni also milked “Madamina, il catalogo è questo” from the same opera for comedic effect, strutting around the stage while leafing through a brochure. (Just 48 hours earlier Pisaroni opened a run of performances in the title role of Don Giovanni at the Met.)

Other scenes featured the duo in tenser moments. As Giorgio in Bellini’s “Il rival,” from I Puritani, Pisaroni conveyed palpable anxiety as his character agonized that a rival should be put to death. As Riccardo, the man in love with Giorgio’s niece Elvira, Hampson was a stalwart presence, his voice swelling with grief in “Se d’Elvira il fantasma dolente.”

In “Restate!” from Verdi’s Don Carlo, Pisaroni sang with conviction as Filippo, the Spanish king who keeps peace through force. When Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa, recalls the king’s military carnage at Flanders in “O Signor, di Fiandra arrivo,” Hampson’s singing and characterization briefly transformed feelings of surprise into anger.

In the concert’s second half, both singers explored the theme of love through a selection of European and American songs. Pisaroni’s version of Stanislao Gastaldon’s Musica Proibita No. 5 was a sweet-toned declaration of unfulfilled longing. In “O Vaterland” from Lehár’s The Merry Widow, Hampson mused upon how drink and love affairs can make one forget one’s patriotism. The singers’ fervent melodies in “And this is my beloved” from Robert Wright and George Forrest’s Kismet ebbed and flowed beautifully. So did Hampson’s rendition of Haydn Wood and Frederick Weatherly’s “Roses of Picardy,” which managed to flower even in its soft, breathy phrases.

Throughout the evening, the singers had a sensitive musical partner in pianist Kevin Murphy. With pearly tone, he supplied graceful support to the Mozart arias. In the Verdi and Bellini scenes his searching accompaniment encapsulated the tension of each moment. His solo performances were just as captivating. The Intermezzo from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci featured his crisp passages crystallizing into radiant harmonies. Harold Arlen’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” provided a jazzy departure, with Murphy’s cascading arpeggios adding silvery shades of color to the melody.

In Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” Murphy and the singers caught the cheerful banter and posh charm of entertainers working a lounge. And as they jousted in “Anything You Can Do,” Hampson and Pisaroni’s singing was interrupted by star tenor Brian Jagde, who lofted a beaming “I can!” from his seat in the hall to stop the squabbling. In agreement for a brief moment, Hampson and Pisaroni looked at each other, then to audience. “No Tenors Allowed!” they shouted.

For an encore, the duo delivered a zesty and hilarious account of the famous patter duet “Cheti cheti immantinente” from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, the two singers trading rapid tongue- twisters as each tried to outdo the other one last time.

The Celebrity Series presents in “Cirque” 8 p.m. February 8 at Jordan Hall. celebrityseries.org; 617- 482-6661

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Hampson and Pisaroni prove a delightful dueling duo in “No Tenors Allowed””

  1. Posted Feb 02, 2019 at 2:04 pm by Jim Eisenberg

    What a delight this concert was ! Didn’t think I would enjoy the Broadway stuff, but those guys managed to work it in a very appealing way. So glad I went !!!

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