Music: Giving The Devil His Due

At home and abroad, Samuel Ramey is opera's satanic majesty

One of the great things about opera is that any boy can grow up to be Mephistopheles, even if he is the son of a meatcutter from Colby, Kans. One of opera's problems is that it is still necessary for a performer to win a % European reputation before he can impress a major American company. For proof of these maxims, consider Samuel Ramey.

In his repertoire of classic, bel canto and romantic bass roles, Ramey, 45, is without peer. He is a seductive Don Giovanni and a boisterous Leporello in Mozart's Don Giovanni, a poignant Don Quixote in Massenet's Don...