Sunday, January 26, 2003

Classical music

Thompson is going for Baroque


When he won first place in a major voice contest last year, tenor Jeffrey Thompson found himself in demand on the international music circuit.

The singer possesses the kind of high, light tenor voice that is prized by early music specialists - a field of music undergoing a Renaissance.

Shortly after the distinguished conductor William Christie heard him sing in the Concours de Chimay International de Chant Baroque held in Belgium last year, Mr. Thompson signed the tenor to sing in his Les Arts Florissants, a renowned early music ensemble known for its Baroque opera recordings.

It was William McGraw, Mr. Thompson's voice teacher at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, who suggested that his student sing the music of French Baroque opera composers, such as Rameau.

"The high pitch of his vocal instrument, and his uncanny understanding of early music styling made him the perfect candidate for the French Baroque," Mr. McGraw says.

"It fit me like a glove," the 24-year-old singer told the Boston Globe. "It just feels right. I can find any and every emotion in this music. I don't just sing it: I let my emotions fly. That sounds cheesy, but it's true."

It wasn't cheesy to Boston's Handel & Haydn Society, which convinced Mr. Thompson to leave CCM and move to Boston, where he would get more early music experience. He made his debut in Handel's Ariodante, directed by acclaimed maestro Christopher Hogwood.

This fall, he sang the tenor solos in their performances of Bach's B Minor Mass, as well as Monteverdi's Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria with the Boston Baroque. He also toured Europe with Les Arts Florissants and a new group of young singers called Les Jardins Des Voix (the Garden of Voices).

And he's going to be singing lots more Rameau. On Tuesday, Mr. Thompson packed up and moved to Paris, where he'll be covering for tenor Paul Agnew and singing in the chorus of Rameau's opera Les Boreades at the renowned Palais Garnier. Meanwhile, several prominent opera companies are lining up to hear him sing.

- Janelle Gelfand

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