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Mighty operatic duo of Ramey and von Stade aims for fun

When Samuel Ramey answers the phone in his incredibly deep, booming, resonant bass, it's like hearing the voice of God, or maybe the devil, given the opera singer's legendary performances in roles like Mephistopheles in Gounod's Faust.

"I've sort of made a career of playing the devil," says Ramey, who will sing some of his signature arias from Faust, Berlioz's The Damnation of Faust and other fire-and-brimstone works in concert Sunday with mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade at Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

"We call it the seniors tour," says Ramey, 66, of his concerts with von Stade, 63. "We do staples from our opera repertoire, then a lot of American songs by Cop­land, Cole Porter, Gershwin and other Broadway things. We have a lot of fun."

Ramey, the pre-eminent American bass of his generation, continues to perform at major houses such as the Metropolitan Opera and Vienna State Opera. "You have to work a little harder when you get into your 60s." he says. "You're able to reinvent yourself as you get older. There are character parts you can go to and extend your career, like Basilio in The Barber of Seville or the Grand Inquisitor in Don Carlo."

More opera

• Also on Sunday afternoon, there's touring opera by Teatro Lirico D'Europa, performing the ever-popular double bill of Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci (or Cav and Pag). 1 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall. $35-$49. (727) 791-7400; rutheckerdhall.com.

• Winners in the Florida Suncoast Opera Guild's 40th annual competition for young professional singers, held last weekend in St. Petersburg: Rolando Sanz, a tenor from West Palm Beach, awarded the $2,000 first prize; soprano Lauren Jelencovich from Wellington, the $1,500 second prize; and Geoffrey Cox, a bass from Winter Park, the $1,000 third prize.

• Opera Tampa lost its chorus director, Cynthia Youkon, who died of lung cancer at 62 on March 10. Ms. Youkon, who began her career as a dramatic soprano, worked with the company from its first production, Madama Butterfly, in 1996, to Suor Angelica in February. Under her, the chorus steadily improved and grew to more than 50 members. She was artistic and general director of Tampa Bay Opera from 1987 to 1997. A memorial will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday in the rehearsal hall of Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

John Fleming can be reached at (727) 893-8716 or fleming@sptimes.com.

IF YOU GO

For tickets

Ramey and von Stade with pianist Martin Katz, 2 p.m. Sunday in TBPAC's Morsani Hall. $39.50-$69.50. (813) 229-7827; 1-800-955-1045.

Mighty operatic duo of Ramey and von Stade aims for fun 03/19/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 19, 2009 9:26pm]

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