Opera: The Big Basso

Bassos, by nature's design, are made-to-order heavies — big, beefy, barrel-chested; bouncers who can carry a tune. The foghorn pitch of their voices suggests heartaches not heroics, lechery not love. Bulgaria's Nicolai Ghiaurov, at 6 ft. 2 in. and 200 Ibs., is no exception. Yet in the six short years since he emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, he has won the kind of hand-to-heart adulation usually reserved for tenors.

Last week, in his debut with the Metropolitan Opera, singing the role of Mephistopheles in Gounod's Faust, he proved why.

As devils go,...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!