Samuel Ramey's latest CD: "A Date with the Devil"
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Samuel Ramey in the title role of Boito's "Mefistofele"
"A Date with the Devil"
As he enters the fourth decade of an extraordinary career, Samuel Ramey continues to command an impressive breadth of bass and bass-baritone 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 - to the dramatic proclamations of the title role in Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle, in which he appeared in a new production at the Metropolitan Opera, televised by PBS. Mr. Ramey's portrayals 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 enable him to pursue portrayals from the troubled preacher Olin Blitch in Carlisle Floyd's Susannah to the terrorized Tsar of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov; from the sharp-witted protagonist of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro to the somber, tortured King Philip II of Verdi's Don Carlo; 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' La damnation de Faust.
It is for the unique expressiveness of the bass voice that many composers assigned the portrayal of devils and villains, and it is in this repertoire that Mr. Ramey has established a reputation unequaled in the musical world. In his concert, titled "A Date with the Devil," Mr. Ramey has developed a unique program focusing on arias representing the core of this repertoire. The concert was first performed in 1996 to a sold-out Avery Fisher Hall in New York with St. Luke's Orchestra led by Julius Rudel and has since been performed with leading orchestras around the world.
Mr. Ramey's first portrayal of this demonic charmer came in 1974, during his third season with the New York City Opera, when he appeared as Méphistophélès in Gounod's Faust. Over the next twenty-five years, this has become his most-performed role with over 200 performances in more than twenty productions with leading opera houses throughout the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera - Covent Garden, Vienna Staatsoper, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, and the operas of Munich, Hamburg, Geneva, Florence, and Venice. In recent seasons, Mr. Ramey performed this role at La Scala and with the Opéra de Paris, Bastille, as well as in Zurich and with the Metropolitan Opera and Los Angeles Opera.
In 1975, Mr. Ramey returned to New York City Opera for his second encounter with the devil, portraying all four villains in Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann. He has repeated this tour de force at La Scala, Covent Garden, Deutsche Oper Berlin, San Francisco Opera, The Netherlands Opera, and Hamburg Staatsoper. In 1992 Mr. Ramey sang all four villains for the Metropolitan Opera's opening night. Most recently, Mr. Ramey appeared as Hoffmann's foil in a new Robert Carsen production with the Opéra de Paris.
Mr. Ramey first encountered Boito's Mefistofele in performances at Bob Jones University in South Carolina. This was quickly followed with appearances in this same role with New York City Opera. His success in this role has led to engagements all over the world with theaters such as the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Geneva, San Francisco, Chicago, Paris, Zürich, Houston and Hamburg, and including over 70 performances of Robert Carsen's production of the work created specifically for Mr. Ramey. Mr. Ramey made his debut at The Washington Opera as Mefistofele, and this role was also the vehicle for his debut at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. His recent portrayal of Boito's devil at San Francisco Opera is available on home video.
The bass' fourth interpretation of the devil was first seen in a concert version of Berlioz' La damnation de Faust with the Milwaukee Symphony. He has since performed this work with leading orchestras throughout the world including the London Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Simon Rattle; the La Scala Orchestra, conducted by Seiji Ozawa; and the San Francisco Symphony, led by Valery Gergiev. Convent Garden was the first to stage this opera for Mr. Ramey in a Harry Kupfer production, conducted by Sir Colin Davis. Recent and future staged performances of this work featuring Mr. Ramey include productions with the Opéra de Paris, Bastille, Los Angeles Opera, and The Washington Opera.
In 1977 Mr. Ramey first appeared as the sinister Nick Shadow in Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress at the Glyndebourne Festival. His brilliant portrayal at Glyndebourne was produced for home video. His subsequent appearances as Nick Shadow include new productions mounted for him at Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Metropolitan Opera, the Teatro Colón, and Aix-en-Provence Festival.
Mr. Ramey's last introduction to the incarnation of Satan occurred in 1985 at the Opéra de Paris, Palais Garnier as Bertram in Meyerbeer's Robert le diable, a role he repeated with the Opera Orchestra of New York under Eve Queler.
Among his more than eighty recordings are complete recordings of Faust for Teldec; Mefistofele for Sony Classical and for BMG Classics in a live recording from La Scala, conducted by Riccardo Muti; Les contes d'Hoffmann for Philips; and The Rake's Progress for Decca/London as well as Erato.
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