SAMUEL RAMEY "A Date with the Devil"
BERLIOZ:  Excerpts from The Damnation of Faust (Hungarian March, Une puce gentile, Devant la maison).  MEYERBEER: Nonnes qui reposex from Robert le diable.  LISZT:  Mephisto Waltz.  BOITO:  Ave Signor, Son lo Spirito che nega sempre tutto and Ecco il mondo from Mefistofele.  OFFENBACH:  Scintille, diamant! from Les contes d'Hoffmann.  GOUNOD: Le veau d'or est toujours debout! and Vous qui faites l'endormie from Faust. STRAVINSKY:  I was never saner and I burn! I freeze! from The Rake's Progress.
Samuel Ramey, bass/Munich Radio Orch; Julius Rudel, cond.  
NAXOS 8.555355 (B) (DDD) TT:  57:01


American bass Samuel Ramey, born in 1942, has had a distinguished career, particularly in the '70s and '80s when he performed frequently at the Chicago Lyric Opera, the Metropolitan, Covent Garden, Vienna State Opera, Covent Garden and other leading opera houses of the world.  Now in the twilight of his career, he has devised this program, A Date with the Devil, which includes many roles in which he excelled in years past. Music from Mefistofele, one of his finest roles, does not include any of the choral excerpts, obviously for cost reasons. UnfortunatelyRamey's voice has deteriorated considerably, with a distressing wobble and unevenness of production not very pleasant to hear. He is heard to far better advantage in his earlier complete recordings of Faust, Mefistofele and The Rake's Progress.  The program, only 57 minutes in length, begins with a dull performance of the Hungarian March from The Damnation of Faust. Liszt's Mephisto Waltz, distinguished primarily by the imaginative harp cadenza at the end, occupies 11:31 of the disk.  Notes state the recording was made at Philharmonic Hall in Munich Oct. 21-23, 2000, but don't clarify if all was recoded live - probably not, although there is applause after the first Damnation aria, the two Faust arias and one of the Rake's Progress arias, none elsewhere. Sonics are not up to Naxos' usual exemplary standards, and pauses between tracks are inordinately long. A plus is inclusion of texts - but this CD is one that would appeal only to the most staunch admirers of Ramey.

R.E.B.  (August 2002)