Berlioz, Meyerbeer, Liszt, Boito, Offenbach, Gounod & Stravinsky

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Berlioz,Boito,Gounod & Stravinsky,Liszt,Meyerbeer,Offenbach
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: A Date with the Devil
WORKS: Arias and orchestral works
PERFORMER: Samuel Ramey (bass); Munich Radio Orchestra/Julius Rudel
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555355
On the assumption that the Devil has all the best tunes, a disc devoted to satanic arias is an enticing prospect, especially when the soloist, Samuel Ramey, is so experienced a Prince of Darkness. Now 60, he remains a compelling and forceful performer, his remarkable bass still in good nick, burnished, bottomless, agile and impeccably articulated. Having spent much of his 30-year career playing Mephistopheles, as conjured by Berlioz, Boito and Gounod, as well as other diabolical characters – Bertram from Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable; Dapertutto from Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann and, outstandingly, Nick Shadow from Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, all of whom are featured here – there is probably no one better suited to these infernal roles.

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The glory of Ramey’s voice apart, what makes his performance here stand out is the way he resists the temptation to descend into parody. He approaches the three Boito arias with deadly intent. There is no sense of ridicule, camp or ham. No images of padded red velour horns and forked tails spring to mind; only genuine terror, darkness and nihilism.

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The Munich Radio Orchestra, under Julius Rudel, deserves credit, too, not least for its effervescent orchestral interludes. Claire Wrathall