Samuel Ramey

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Samuel Ramey
Born (1942-03-28) March 28, 1942 (age 81)
OccupationOpera singer
Years active1973–present

Samuel Ramey (born March 28, 1942) is an American operatic bass.[1][2]

At the height of his career, he was greatly admired for his range and versatility, having possessed a sufficiently accomplished bel canto technique to enable him to sing the music of Handel, Mozart and Rossini, yet with power enough to handle the more overtly dramatic roles in Verdi, Puccini and Meyerbeer.

Early life[edit]

Ramey graduated from Colby High School in Colby, Kansas in 1960. He studied music in high school and in college at Kansas State University, as well as at Wichita State with Arthur Newman. In college at Kansas State, he was a member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity.

After further study in Central City (where he was in the chorus of Don Giovanni in 1963, with Norman Treigle in the title role) and as an apprentice with the Santa Fe Opera, he went to New York City where he worked for an academic publisher before he had his first breakthrough at the New York City Opera, debuting on March 11, 1973, as Zuniga in the 1875 Bizet opera Carmen, after which, among other roles, he took over the Faustian devils in Gounod's Faust and Boito's Mefistofele vacated by the early death of Treigle.

As his repertoire expanded he spent more and more time in the theaters of Europe, notably in Berlin, Hamburg, London, Paris, Milan, Vienna and the summer festivals in Aix-en-Provence, Glyndebourne, Pesaro and Salzburg.

Later career[edit]

In January 1984, Ramey made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in Handel's Rinaldo. He has since become a fixture at the Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, Vienna State Opera, the Paris Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the New York City Opera, the San Francisco Opera and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires (Attila, The Rake's Progress, Mefistofele).. In July 1985 he was cast as Bertram in the historic revival in Paris of Giacomo Meyerbeer's Robert le diable.

Ramey has sung in Mozart's Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro and, in the bel canto repertoire, in Rossini's Semiramide, The Barber of Seville, Il Turco in Italia, L'italiana in Algeri, and La Gazza Ladra; in Donizetti's Anna Bolena and Lucia di Lammermoor and Bellini's I puritani. In the dramatic repertoire, Ramey has been acclaimed for his "Three Devils": Boito's Mefistofele, Gounod's Faust and Berlioz's dramatic legend Damnation of Faust.[3]

Other dramatic roles have included Verdi's Nabucco, Don Carlo, I masnadieri, I Lombardi and Jérusalem, as well as Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann (portraying all four villains).

In 1990, he sang Joe in Jerome Kern's Show Boat in a concert performance at Avery Fisher Hall with Jerry Hadley and Frederica von Stade.[4]

A number of previously obscure operas with strong bass/bass-baritone roles have been revived solely for Ramey, such as Verdi's Attila, Rossini's Maometto II and Massenet's Don Quichotte. He provided the voice for The Beast, the main antagonist of the 2014 animated miniseries Over the Garden Wall.[5]

In 1996, Ramey gave a concert at New York's Avery Fisher Hall titled "A Date with the Devil" in which he sang 14 arias representing the core of this repertory. He continued to tour this program throughout the world.[6] In 2000, Ramey presented this concert at Munich's Gasteig Concert Hall. This performance was recorded live, and was released on compact disc in summer 2002.[citation needed]

He formerly served as a member of the faculty at Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Arts and is currently a Distinguished Professor of Opera at Wichita State University's School of Music.[7]

Ramey was named an inaugural member of the WSU College of Fine Arts Hall of Fame in 2015.[8] He is a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity.[citation needed]

He reprised the title role of "Duke Bluebeard" in Opera Omaha's production of Béla Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle in April 2013 in Omaha, Nebraska.[9]


Ramey has made an exceptionally high number of recordings documenting many of his main operatic roles as well as collections of miscellaneous arias, other classical pieces, and crossover discs of popular American music. He has also appeared on television and video productions of the Met's productions of Carmen and Bluebeard's Castle, San Francisco's production of Mefistofele, Glyndebourne's production of The Rake's Progress and Salzburg's production of Don Giovanni.[10]


He married his third wife, soprano Lindsey Larsen, on June 29, 2002.[11][12]


Role Opera Composer
Bluebeard Bluebeard's Castle Bartók
Dr Pangloss Candide Bernstein
Oroveso Norma Bellini
Sir Giorgio I puritani Bellini
Méphistophélès La damnation de Faust Berlioz
Escamillo Carmen Bizet
Mefistofele Mefistofele Boito
John Claggart Billy Budd Britten
Riccardo III Riccardo III Canepa
La Père Louise Charpentier
Enrico VIII Anna Bolena Donizetti
Raimondo Bidebent Lucia di Lammermoor Donizetti
Andrea Cornaro Caterina Cornaro Donizetti
Olin Susannah Floyd
Méphistophélès Faust Gounod
Argante Rinaldo Handel
Garibaldo Rodelinda Handel
Il Re di Scozia Ariodante Handel
Semele Handel
Idreno Armida Haydn
Le Comte Des Grieux Manon Massenet
Le Comte Chérubin Massenet
Don Quichotte Don Quichotte Massenet
Bertram Robert le diable Meyerbeer
Archibald L'amore dei tre re Montemezzi
Figaro Le nozze di Figaro Mozart
Don Giovanni
Don Giovanni Mozart
Sarastro Die Zauberflöte Mozart
Boris Godunov
Boris Godunov Mussorgsky
Les contes d'Hoffmann Offenbach
Alvise Badoero La Gioconda Ponchielli
Kutuzov War and Peace Prokof'ev
Colline La bohème Puccini
Barone Scarpia
Cesare Angelotti
Tosca Puccini
Rambaldo La rondine Puccini
Timur Turandot Puccini
Gaudenzio Il signor Bruschino Rossini
Mustafà L'italiana in Algeri Rossini
Selim Il turco in Italia Rossini
Don Basilio Il barbiere di Siviglia Rossini
Elmiro Otello Rossini
Podestà Gottardo La gazza ladra Rossini
Douglas d'Angus La donna del lago Rossini
Maometto secondo Maometto secondo Rossini
Assur Semiramide Rossini
Lord Sidney Il viaggio a Reims Rossini
Moïse Mosè in Egitto Rossini
Le Gouverneur Le comte Ory Rossini
Un vecchio ebreo Samson et Dalila Saint-Saëns
Orest Elektra Strauss
Nick Shadow The Rake's Progress Stravinsky
Claudius Hamlet Thomas
Oberto Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio Verdi
Zaccaria Nabucco Verdi
Pagano I Lombardi alla prima crociata Verdi
Jacopo Loredano I due Foscari Verdi
Attila Verdi
Banco Macbeth Verdi
Massimiliano Moor I masnadieri Verdi
Comte de Toulouse Jérusalem Verdi
Wurm Luisa Miller Verdi
Rigoletto Verdi
Padre Guardiano La forza del destino Verdi
Filippo II
Il Grande Inquisitore
Don Carlos Verdi
Ramfis Aida Verdi

Select discography[edit]

Select videography[edit]


  1. ^ Ralph Blumenthal, "The Devil? He's a Basso Whose Voice Is Heavenly", The New York Times, February 17, 1998.
  2. ^ Anthony Tommasini, "An Aw Shucks Manner, but Don't Be Fooled: He's an Absolute Devil", The New York Times, November 5, 1999.
  3. ^ "About the Performer: Samuel Ramey". Los Angeles Philharmonic. March 2000. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
  4. ^ "Flicka and Friends: From Rossini to Show Boat (1990)". Live from Lincoln Center. IMDb. April 18, 1990. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  5. ^ Houston, Shannon M. (December 26, 2014). "The Best Animated TV Shows of 2014". Paste. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
  6. ^ Ashley, Tim (July 5, 2000). "A Date with the Devil: Samuel Ramey". The Guardian. Manchester, UK. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
  7. ^ "Opera star Sam Ramey to be WSU guest artist in residence" (Press release). Wichita State University. August 29, 2012. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
  8. ^ "College of Fine Arts Hall of Fame selects 12 for inaugural induction class" (Press release). Wichita State University. March 9, 2015.
  9. ^ "Sam Ramey in Bluebeard's Castle". Opera Omaha. May 18, 2012. Archived from the original on September 5, 2015. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
  10. ^ Feeney, Anne. "Samuel Ramey: Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
  11. ^ "WEDDINGS; Lindsey Larsen, Samuel Ramey". The New York Times. June 30, 2002. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
  12. ^ "Samuel Ramey Biography". Musician Biographies. Retrieved 24 March 2022.