The Library of Congress honored Thomas Hampson, a leading baritone and longtime promoter of art song in America, with its Living Legend medal at a concert on Oct. 28 in the Coolidge Auditorium.
“I am deeply honored and grateful to receive this award,” Hampson said. “As an American artist, it is humbling to be acknowledged and appreciated in this way by the Library of Congress and contribute to the great and passionate dialogue of arts, humanities and performing arts in the United States.”
Hampson is the 101st recipient of the award, joining a distinguished list that ranges from slugger Hank Aaron to cellist Yo-Yo Ma, director Steven Spielberg and former first lady Laura Bush. The award, first given in 2000, honors individuals who have made a significant contribution to America’s cultural, scientific and social heritage.
The Library previously honored Hampson with the title of “Special Advisor for the Study and Performance of Music in America.”
“I cannot think of a more qualified, accomplished or passionate ambassador for the Library of Congress, or a more deserving recipient of the Library’s 101st Living Legend award, than Thomas Hampson,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.
The Library last awarded the Living Legend medal in July 2009, when Billington honored Fay Kanin.
Hampson has performed nearly 70 roles, including the title roles from “Don Giovanni,” “Il Barbiere di Siviglia,” “Guillaume Tell,” “Macbeth,” “Simon Boccanegra” and “Eugene Onegin.” He’s taken the stage at the Metropolitan Opera, the Zurich Opera, the Vienna State Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the San Francisco Opera, the Opéra National de Paris, and the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.
Hampson has been honored with a Grammy, the Grand Prix du Disque, a Lifetime Achievement Award Edison Prize and awards from the Gramophone, Echo Klassik, Opera News’ award for distinguished achievement and Musical America’s “Vocalist of the Year.” In 2009, he received the Atlantic Council’s award for distinguished artistic leadership. He recently was elected a member of the America Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also serves as artistic director and founder of the Heidelberg Lied Academy in Germany and a distinguished visiting artist at the Manhattan School of Music.
In 2005, Hampson worked with the Library of Congress to launch the “Song of America” concert tour, which last year opened a second season. Drawing on the unparalleled collection of American songs housed at the Library, Hampson presented a unique series of recitals, educational activities, exhibitions, recordings, webcasts and interactive online resources.
Since the launch of “Song of America,” Hampson has performed the concert repertoire in 22 of the 50 United States and in 13 nations across Europe, including a world-premiere performance and first-ever televised broadcast from Spaso House, the Moscow residence of the U.S. ambassador to Russia.
Hampson also is a leading interpreter of the songs of Gustav Mahler, and he led his program at the Coolidge with masterful performances from the composer’s settings from “Des Knaben Wunderhorn.” He concluded, fittingly, with titles featured in the “Song of America” tour: “My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free,” a composition by Declaration of Independence signer Francis Hopkinson, and pieces by Aaron Copland, Charles Ives and Stephen Foster.