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,...

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