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. He holds the distinction of being the most recorded opera bass in history. In addition to being heralded as one of the most extraordinary singers of the past three decades, Samuel Ramey has performed at every one of the world’s most important opera houses and concert stages. In 1995 he was named “Kansan of the Year,” and in 1998 the French Ministry of Culture awarded him the rank of Commander in the Order of Arts and Letters. With astounding versatility he commands an impressive breadth of repertoire encompassing virtually every musical style. 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.
A native of Colby, Kansas, Samuel Ramey was active in music throughout high school and college, studying at Wichita State with Arthur Newman. After further study in Central City and as an apprentice with the Santa Fe Opera, he went to New York where he had his first breakthrough at the New York City Opera, debuting in Bizet’s opera Carmen. It was at City Opera where he took over the Faustian devils in Gounod's Faust and Boito's Mefistofele. As his repertoire expanded, he spent more and more time in the theatres of Europe, notably in Berlin, Hamburg, London, Paris, Milan, Vienna, and Salzburg.
It is in the “villain” 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 for his performances of Boito’s Mefistofele, Berlioz’ devil in La damnation de Faust; the sinister Nick Shadow in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress; Bertram in Meyerbeer's Robert le Diable; 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.
In the twilight of his sterling career, Ramey has turned his attention homeward. In the Fall of 2012 he joined the faculty of Wichita State where he coaches, directs, mentors, and performs with students in the School of Music. Since returning, he has performed Blitch in Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, one of his signature roles, and he recently completed a tour-de-force production of Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.