Samuel Ramey

Biography

Born: March 28, 1942; USA  
Basses are not typically the superstars of the operatic world, but Samuel Ramey is an exception to that rule. Though his voice does not have the sonority of a Nicolai Ghiaurov or a Boris Christoff, his instrument is remarkable for its easy flexibility -- dealing effortlessly with long runs, ornaments, and leaps -- and its brilliant intensity. His stage presence (particularly when portraying "devil" figures) is vivid and lively, aided by an Read more attractive physique and a dancer-like grace. He and the various stage directors have tended to emphasize these aspects, giving rise to the comment that "Ramey's Mefistofele has everything one could desire, except possibly a shirt."

While he was attending Kansas State University, Ramey's interest in operatic music was awakened when a friend suggested that he audition for a summer program at Colorado's Central City Opera. He was accepted and got to sing in the chorus for two productions. Soon after, he began to study avidly, first at Wichita State University and later in New York with Armen Boyajian; he made his professional debut in 1973 as Zuniga in Bizet's Carmen at the New York City Opera. His Glyndebourne debut was in 1976 as Figaro in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro.

A 1980 performance of Rossini's Semiramide at Aix-en-Provence, opposite Monserrat Caballé and Marilyn Horne, made him an overnight sensation. For critics and audience alike, this new bass with the ideal power and agility was a welcome surprise. His La Scala debut came the next year as Mozart's Figaro, followed by his Covent Garden debut in 1982, in the same role. In 1984, he made his Metropolitan debut as Argante in Rinaldo. He has been a regular at the Pesaro Rossini Festival. Many Rossini bass roles had become "character parts" over the years -- performed more in parlando than actually sung (partly for comedy, partly because of the extreme difficulty of the roles) -- and Ramey determined to sing these as written. His instinctive gift for comedy without clownishness has served him well in these parts, as well as in his various diabolical roles, most of which contain a good deal of sardonic humor. He performs arias from his darker roles in his "Date with the Devil" concerts.

Later in his career, as his voice became darker and weightier, Ramey slowly began to drop the florid Rossini and Handel roles in favor of the heavier Verdi roles, such as King Philip in Don Carlo, Fiesco in Simon Boccanegra, and even Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov. He has also performed twentieth century repertoire widely, especially noted for his Reverend Olin Blitch in Floyd's Susannah and Nick Shadow in Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress.

Ramey is the most recorded bass in history, with dozens of recordings to his credit. These range from nearly all of his operatic roles to solo recordings of arias and song, and even some musical theater. He has appeared on the TV series Live from Lincoln Center and in TV and video recordings of many of his roles. Read less
Stravinsky: Rake's Progress / Haitink, Lott, Goeke, Elias, Van Allen, Ramey
Release Date: 01/28/2014   Label: Arthaus Musik  
Catalog: 102314   Number of Discs: 1
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Verdi: Attila / Muti, Ramey, Studer, Et Al
Release Date: 01/18/2005   Label: Opus Arte  
Catalog: 3010   Number of Discs: 1
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Boito: Mefistofele / Ramey, Benackova, San Francisco Opera [blu-ray]
Release Date: 09/25/2015   Label: Arthaus Musik  
Catalog: 109148   Number of Discs: 1
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Boito: Mefistofele / Ramey, Benackova, San Francisco Opera
Release Date: 09/25/2015   Label: Arthaus Musik  
Catalog: 109147   Number of Discs: 1
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Browse 1-25 of 114 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Opera Gold: 100 Great Tracks
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002503602 Release Date: 06/03/2016   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini,  Georges Bizet,  Giuseppe Verdi,  Umberto Giordano  ... 
    Performer:  Luciano Pavarotti,  Marilyn Horne,  Dame Joan Sutherland,  Mirella Freni  ... 
    Conductor:  Zubin Mehta,  Henry Lewis,  Richard Bonynge,  Herbert von Karajan  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  John Alldis Choir,  Wandsworth School Boys' Choir,  London Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $21.99
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  • 2.
    Great Moments at Carnegie Hall (Selected Highlights)
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 530420 Release Date: 05/06/2016   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Frédéric Chopin,  Paul de Schlözer,  Sergei Rachmaninov  ... 
    Performer:  Ronald Turini,  Artur Rubinstein,  Jorge Bolet,  Van Cliburn  ... 
    Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein,  Arturo Toscanini,  André Previn
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic,  NBC Symphony Orchestra,  Orchestra of St. Luke's
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  • 3.
    Verdi: The Complete Works
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002459302 Release Date: 03/25/2016   Number of Discs: 75
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Violeta Urmana,  Stuart Neill,  Maria Guleghina,  Samuel Ramey  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner,  Lamberto Gardelli,  James Levine,  Richard Bonynge  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  London Voices,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $219.98
    CD: $194.99
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  • 4.
    The History of Classical Music in 24 Hours
    Label: Dg Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002403602 Release Date: 11/13/2015   Number of Discs: 24
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Pérotin,  Guillaume de Machaut,  John Dunstable  ... 
    Performer:  Konrad Ragossnig,  Charles [Tenor Vocals] Daniels,  Susan Gritton,  Trevor Pinnock  ... 
    Conductor:  Pater Godehard Joppich,  David Munrow,  Josef Ulsamer,  Bruno Turner  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Early Music Consort of London,  Ulsamer-Collegium,  Pro Cantione Antiqua  ... 
    CD: $75.49
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  • 5.
    Boito: Mefistofele / Ramey, Benackova, San Francisco Opera
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 109147 Release Date: 09/25/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arrigo Boito
    Performer:  Gabriela Benacková,  Samuel Ramey,  Dennis O'Neill
    Conductor:  Maurizio Arena
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Opera Orchestra,  San Francisco Opera Chorus
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  • 6.
    Boito: Mefistofele / Ramey, Benackova, San Francisco Opera [blu-ray]
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 109148 Release Date: 09/25/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arrigo Boito
    Performer:  Gabriela Benacková,  Samuel Ramey,  Dennis O'Neill
    Conductor:  Maurizio Arena
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Opera Orchestra,  San Francisco Opera Chorus
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  • 7.
    Karajan - The Opera Recordings
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002328102 Release Date: 07/31/2015   Number of Discs: 70
    Composer:  Georges Bizet,  Christoph W. Gluck,  Franz Lehár,  Franz von Suppé  ... 
    Performer:  Heinz Zednik,  Christine Barbaux,  Katia Ricciarelli,  José Van Dam  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Paris Opera Chorus,  Schöneberg Boys Choir  ... 
    CD: $279.49
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  • 8.
    Claudio Abbado: The Complete RCA & Sony Album Collection
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 304505 Release Date: 08/05/2014   Number of Discs: 39
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Robert Schumann  ... 
    Performer:  Claudio Abbado,  Murray Perahia,  Anatoly Kotcherga,  Midori  ... 
    Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
    Recommendation
    CD: $95.99
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  • 9.
    Leonard Bernstein Collection Vol 1 [59 CDs & 1 DVD]
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 2027800 Release Date: 04/22/2014   Number of Discs: 60
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johannes Brahms,  Leonard Bernstein,  Benjamin Britten  ... 
    Performer:  René Kollo,  Dame Gwyneth Jones,  Kurt Moll,  Hanna Schwarz  ... 
    Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein,  Michael Tilson Thomas,  Kent Nagano
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna State Opera Concert Choir,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra  ... 
    Recommendation
    CD: $259.49
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  • 10.
    Stravinsky: Rake's Progress / Haitink, Lott, Goeke, Elias, Van Allen, Ramey
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 102314 Release Date: 01/28/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
    Performer:  Rosalind Elias,  Felicity Lott,  Samuel Ramey,  Leo Goeke  ... 
    Conductor:  Bernard Haitink
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  Glyndebourne Festival Chorus
    Recommendation
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  • 11.
    Teldec - 50-CD Collection
    Label: Teldec   Catalog: 643851 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Béla Bartók,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Antonín Dvorák,  Franz Joseph Haydn  ... 
    Performer:  András Schiff,  Josef Protschka,  Barbara Bonney,  Edita Gruberova  ... 
    Conductor:  Iván Fischer,  Nikolaus Harnoncourt,  Carlo Rizzi,  Reinbert De Leeuw  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Budapest Festival Orchestra,  Chamber Orchestra of Europe,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $299.98
    CD: $249.99
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  • 12.
    Lux Aeterna - Abbado In Rehearsal - Verdi: Messa Da Requiem
    Label: Euroarts   Catalog: 2001318 Release Date: 05/28/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Chris Merritt,  Peter Dvorsky,  Montserrat Caballé,  Lucia Valentini-Terrani  ... 
    Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra
    On sale! $24.99
    DVD: $16.99
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  • 13.
    Bernstein: On The Town
    Label: Dg Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001819402 Release Date: 04/02/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Leonard Bernstein
    Performer:  Samuel Ramey,  Michael Barrett,  Kurt Ollmann,  David Garrison  ... 
    Conductor:  Michael T. Thomas
    CD: $7.99
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  • 14.
    Verdi: The Great Operas [35-CDs]
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 167452 Release Date: 01/22/2013   Number of Discs: 35
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Anne Edwards,  Matteo Manuguerra,  Nicolai Ghiaurov,  Renata Scotto  ... 
    Conductor:  Riccardo Muti,  James Levine,  Tullio Serafin,  Antonio Pappano  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ambrosian Opera Chorus,  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus  ... 
    CD: $97.49
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  • 15.
    Solti Conducts The Mozart Operas [15-CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001745402 Release Date: 10/16/2012   Number of Discs: 15
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Tom Krause,  Arthur Davies,  Gabriel Bacquier,  Pilar Lorengar  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus,  London Opera Chorus  ... 
    Recommendation
    CD: $63.49
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  • 16.
    Offenbach: Tales of Hoffmann / Tate, Norman, Araiza, Studer, Ramey
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001726902 Release Date: 09/11/2012   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Jacques Offenbach
    Performer:  Jessye Norman,  Cheryl Studer,  Eva Lind,  Anne Sofie von Otter  ... 
    Conductor:  Jeffrey Tate
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Radio Chorus,  Dresden State Opera Orchestra
    CD: $26.99
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  • 17.
    Verdi: Oberto Conte Di San Bonifacio / Marriner, Ramey
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001727702 Release Date: 09/11/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Maria Guleghina,  Samuel Ramey,  Violeta Urmana,  Sara Fulgoni
    Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  London Voices
    CD: $21.99
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  • 18.
    Verdi: I Masnadieri / Bonynge, Sutherland, Ramey, Bonisolli
    Label: London/Decca Grand Opera Series   Catalog: 433854 Release Date: 05/29/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Arthur Davies,  Matteo Manuguerra,  Samuel Ramey,  Franco Bonisolli  ... 
    Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Welsh National Opera Orchestra,  Welsh National Opera Chorus
    Recommendation
    On sale! $33.98
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  • 19.
    Rossini: Operas / Claudio Abbado [9-CD Collector's Edition]
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001676502 Release Date: 05/08/2012   Number of Discs: 9
    Composer:  Gioachino Rossini
    Performer:  Luigi Roni,  Stefania Malagú,  Renato Cesari,  Enzo Dara  ... 
    Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Ambrosian Opera Chorus,  Prague Philharmonic Chorus  ... 
    Recommendation
    On sale! $49.98
    CD: $46.99
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  • 20.
    Handel: Messiah / Davis, Battle, Quivar, Aler, Ramey
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 85189 Release Date: 01/24/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel
    Performer:  John Aler,  Kathleen Battle,  Florence Quivar,  Samuel Ramey
    Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toronto Symphony Orchestra,  Toronto Mendelssohn Choir,  Elmer Iseler Singers
    CD: $25.49
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  • 21.
    Mozart: Le Nozze Di Figaro / Solti, Te Kanawa, Ramey, Tear, Popp
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001621302 Release Date: 12/06/2011   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Kurt Moll,  Dame Kiri Te Kanawa,  Philip Langridge,  Giorgio Tadeo  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Opera Chorus
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  • 22.
    Bellini: Norma / Bonynge, Sutherland, Caballe, Pavarotti, Ramey
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001615902 Release Date: 11/21/2011   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Vincenzo Bellini
    Performer:  Montserrat Caballé,  Luciano Pavarotti,  Dame Joan Sutherland,  Samuel Ramey  ... 
    Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Welsh National Opera Chorus,  Welsh National Opera Orchestra
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  • 23.
    Bruckner: 10 Symphonies / Barenboim, Chicago SO [10-CD Collector's Edition]
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001606902 Release Date: 10/18/2011   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Anton Bruckner
    Performer:  Yvonne Minton,  Jessye Norman,  Samuel Ramey,  David Rendall  ... 
    Conductor:  Daniel Barenboim
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  Chicago Symphony Chorus
    Recommendation
    On sale! $54.98
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  • 24.
    Puccini: Turandot / Nelsons, Guleghina, Poplavskaya, Ramey, Metropolitan Opera [blu-ray]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001601659 Release Date: 09/27/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Maria Guleghina,  Samuel Ramey,  Marina Poplavskaya,  Marcello Giordani
    Conductor:  Andris Nelsons
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
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    Blu-ray Video: $35.99
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  • 25.
    Puccini: Turandot / Nelsons, Guleghina, Poplavskaya, Ramey, Metropolitan Opera
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001573509 Release Date: 07/12/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Marina Poplavskaya,  Samuel Ramey,  Maria Guleghina,  Marcello Giordani
    Conductor:  Andris Nelsons
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
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