Samuel Ramey interview for Arts Chat – Listen
Samuel Ramey’s interview with Chris Waddington of NOLA.com – Read
For over three decades, Samuel Ramey has reigned as one of the music world’s foremost interpreters of bass and bass-baritone operatic and concert repertoire. With astounding versatility he commands an impressive breadth of repertoire encompassing virtually every musical style from the fioratura of Argante in Handel’s Rinaldo, which was the vehicle of his acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut in 1984, to the dramatic proclamations of the title role in Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle, which he sang in a new production at the Metropolitan Opera televised by PBS. Mr. Ramey’s interpretations embrace the bel canto of Bellini, Rossini, and Donizetti; the lyric and dramatic roles of Mozart and Verdi; and the heroic roles of the Russian and French repertoire.
The combination of Samuel Ramey’s commanding vocalism, exceptional musicianship, elegant stage presence, and uncommon theatrical abilities has enabled him to portray a wide variety of characters from the sharp-witted protagonist of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro to the somber, tortured King Philip II of Verdi’s Don Carlos; from the terrorizing Hun of Verdi’s Attila to the terrorized Tsar of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov; from the capricious libertine of Mozart’s Don Giovanni to the troubled preacher Olin Blitch in Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah; from the sober and profound Field Marshal Kutuzov in Prokofiev’s War and Peace to the comedic title role in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi; from the benevolent Giorgio in I Puritani and Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor to the sinister incarnations of the devil in Gounod’s Faust, Boito’s Mefistofele, and Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust.
The unique expressiveness of the bass voice has inspired many composers to assign the portrayal of devils and villains to basses, and it is in this repertoire that Mr. Ramey has established a reputation unequaled in the musical world. Méphistophélès in Gounod’s Faust has become his most-performed role with over 200 performances in more than twenty productions. He is equally well-known in opera houses and concert halls throughout the world for his performances of Boito’s Mefistofele, including over 70 performances in the Robert Carsen production of this work specifically created for Mr. Ramey; Berlioz’ devil in La damnation de Faust; the sinister Nick Shadow in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress; and the tour de force of all four villains in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann. In 1992 Mr. Ramey sang all of Offenbach’s villains for the Metropolitan Opera’s opening night, prompting one critic to write, “[It was] the best interpretation of the four villains I can remember in the last 25 years. This is the stuff of which operatic legends are made.” In 1996 Mr. Ramey presented a sold-out concert at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall titled A Date with the Devil in which he sang fourteen arias representing the core of this repertoire, and he continues to tour this program throughout the world. In 2000 Mr. Ramey presented this concert at Munich’s Gasteig Concert Hall. This performance was recorded live by Naxos Records and was released on compact disc in summer 2002.