Mark Adamo's Aristotle can already be ranked as a 21st-century vocal masterpiece. Set to a poem by Billy Collins, the work is about the passage of time and the stages of life. It resonates on a personal level, especially for those of us moving into the later decades of our span. Mark Adamo's writing and the playing of the Jupiter Quartet provided Mr. Hampson with a marvelous vehicle in which the singer's artistry is fully presented.
29th April 2013
He was a one-man Greek chorus in Collins’s poem, which muses on the beginning, the middle, and the end of life (thus following Aristotle’s precept) and seems to wonder why with time doesn’t come greater wisdom. Adamo wreathes the string quartet’s chugging lines around the baritone’s recitative, giving him plenty of room, and Hampson took it, agitated over the difficult births at the end of the “beginning” section, tender when he came to “the last elephant in the parade.” Collins’s poem ends with “falling leaves”; Adamo’s vocal line actually rises at this point. I wouldn’t have objected to hearing it encored.
Jeffrey Gantz, Boston Globe
29th April 2013
Aristotle is a fourteen-minute song, or mini-cycle, based on a three-part poem by former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins... The poem's open-ended ambiguity and the stream-of-conscious clichés inspire Adamo, the composer of the popular opera Little Women, to a series of musical snapshots, a stylistic sampler in episodic shorthand.
In a somewhat freer harmonic language than Adamo used in his opera, the instruments start with tight, pregnant dissonance, play repeatedly with ambiguous irresolution and end in a suavely understated rhapsody of glissandos to evoke the final images of "a streak of light in the sky … falling leaves." Irony gives way to sober lyricism...
Adamo's versatile vocal writing makes this a sure-fire vehicle for a virtuoso singer such as Hampson, whose rigor and polish were concealed by a show of casual spontaneity.
David J. Baker, Opera News
28th April 2013
That three-part song proved the highlight of baritone Thomas Hampson and the Jupiter String Quartet’s appearance at the Mondavi Center for the Arts on Wednesday evening.
Adamo’s music for Aristotle was married to Billy Collins’ vividly impressionistic poem of the same name. It’s easy to see why Adamo chose it for his musical inspiration. The 74-line poem nails the idea of how stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. But make no mistake — the poem is far from a dry incantation of Aristotelian principles. Rather, it’s an intimate and vivid skein of images akin to the mise-en-scène of an experimental film, albeit one that hews to tried-and-true dramatic structure.
Edward Ortiz, San Francisco Classical Voice
24th April 2013