I am Sam
In the last couple of years, Samuel Ramey's status in the opera world has changed: he's moved from young lion to old lion to somewhat unsteady lion. The leonine presence and the on-stage authority are still there, as evidenced in WNO's recent Hamlet, but the firm sound is not. This doesn't diminish memories of him in his prime; and his whole life is now the subject of a new biography by Jane Scovell, who has written books about Oona Chaplin, Ginger Rogers, and, familiar to opera-lovers, Marilyn Horne, among others.
There's a kind of intimacy about watching artists mature. Ramey used to put me off with what I saw as his schtick: the "Date with the Devil" approach seemed to me posed and unnecessarily hokey. And for at least the last decade, his singing has been seriously hampered by an increasing vocal wobble. But even despite that, there have been a couple of performances that helped me grasp the power and smoothness and presence that made him so strong in his prime. This was a major American career. One feels slightly protective of him on stage now, working to make the most of what he has.
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