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Ramón Vinay, Chilean Heroic Tenor

By December 28, 2023No Comments

Ramón Vinay was born in Chile to a French father and a Chilean mother. He received education in France. The family moved to Mexico City where he studied singing with José Pierson. He began as a baritone, making his debut as Don Alfonso in La Favorita in an opera touring company. He was further more engaged to sing Amonasro, Radames, Ezio, Rigoletto, Scarpia, Alfredo and Turiddu.

Vinay had a huge voice. He was most well known for his Otello. That particular role is as difficult as any role that Wagner wrote. He had the reputation of being a very expressive singer, one who could really inhabit a role.

Verdi, Otello: Act III: “Dio! mi potevi scagliar”

Dio! mi potevi scagliar tutti i mali
della miseria, della vergogna,
far de’ miei baldi trofei trionfali
una maceria, una menzogna…
e avrei portato la croce crudel
d’angoscie e d’onte
con calma fronte
e rassegnato al volere del ciel.
Ma, – o pianto, o duol! –
m’han rapito il miraggio
dov’io, giulivo, l’anima acqueto.
Spento è quel sol,
quel sorriso, quel raggio
che mi fa vivo, che mi fa lieto!
Spento è quel sol, ecc.
Tu alfin, Clemenza,
pio genio immortal
dal roseo riso,
copri il tuo viso santo
coll’orrida larva infernal!
Ah! Dannazione!
Pria confessi il delitto
e poscia muoia!
Confession! Confession!
(Entra Jago.)

La prova!…

JAGO (indicando l’ingresso)
Cassio è là!

OTELLO
Là? Cielo! O gioia!
(con raccapriccio)
Orror! Supplizi immondi!

JAGO
Ti frena!
(conduce rapidamente Otello nel fondo a
sinistra dove c’è il vano del verone)

Ti nascondi.
(Jago, appena condotto Otello al verone, corre verso
il fondo del peristilio. Incontra Cassio che esita ad
entrare.)

Verdi, Otello: Act III: “God! Thou have thrown all the evils”

God! Thou couldst have thrown all the evils,
every affliction of poverty and shame,
made of my heroic battle-honours
a heap of ruination and a lie …
and I should have borne the cruel cross
of torment and disgrace
with patience
and resigned me to the will of heaven.
But – oh tears, oh pain! –
to rob me of that vision
in which my soul was garnered joyfully!
That sun has been snuffed out,
that smile, that ray
which gives me life and happiness!
That sun has been snuffed out, etc.
Mercy, thou immortal
rose-lipped cherubin,
cover at the last thy holy face
with the horrid mask of hell!
Ah! Damnation!
Let her first confess her crime,
then die!
Confession! Confession!
(Iago enters.)

The proof!…

IAGO (pointing to the door)
Cassio is here!

OTHELLO
Here?! Heaven! Oh joy!
(recoiling)
Oh horror! Torture most foul!

IAGO
Restrain yourself!
(rapidly leading Othello to the back of the hall on the
left, where there is a recess on the terrace)

Hide.
(As soon as Iago has led Othello onto the terrace, he
runs to the end of the colonnade. There he meets
Cassio, who is hesitating to enter the hall.)

Wagner, Die Walküre, “Ein Schwert verhieß mir der Vater”

Ein Schwert verhieß mir der Vater,
ich fänd’ es in höchster Not.
Waffenlos fiel ich in Feindes Haus;
seiner Rache Pfand, raste ich hier: –
ein Weib sah ich, wonnig und hehr:
entzückend Bangen zehrt mein Herz.
Zu der mich nun Sehnsucht zieht,
die mit süßem Zauber mich sehrt,
im Zwange hält sie der Mann,
der mich Wehrlosen höhnt!
Wälse! Wälse! Wo ist dein Schwert?
Das starke Schwert,
das im Sturm ich schwänge,
bricht mir hervor aus der Brust,
was wütend das Herz noch hegt?

Was gleißt dort hell im Glimmerschein?
Welch ein Strahl bricht aus der Esche Stamm?
Des Blinden Auge leuchtet ein Blitz:
lustig lacht da der Blick.
Wie der Schein so hehr das Herz mir sengt!
Ist es der Blick der blühenden Frau,
den dort haftend sie hinter sich ließ,
als aus dem Saal sie schied?

Nächtiges Dunkel deckte mein Aug’,
ihres Blickes Strahl streifte mich da:
Wärme gewann ich und Tag.
Selig schien mir der Sonne Licht;
den Scheitel umgliß mir ihr wonniger Glanz –
bis hinter Bergen sie sank.

Noch einmal, da sie schied,
traf mich abends ihr Schein;
selbst der alten Esche Stamm
erglänzte in goldner Glut:
da bleicht die Blüte, das Licht verlischt;
nächtiges Dunkel deckt mir das Auge:
tief in des Busens Berge glimmt nur noch lichtlose Glut.

Wagner, The Valkyrie, “A sword promised me the father”

A sword promised me the father,
I find it in dire need.
Without weapons, I fell into enemy’s house;
his revenge pledge, I raced here: –
I saw a woman, happy and dear:
delightful anxiety consumes my heart.
To which I now long for,
who loves me with sweet magic,
in coercion she keeps the man,
who sneers at me defenseless!
Volsa! Volsa! Where is your sword?
The strong sword,
that in the storm I sway,
breaks out of my chest,
What angry heart still holds?

What is there bright in the mica glow?
What a ray breaks out of the ash tree trunk?
The blind eye shines a lightning bolt:
the look laughs amusedly.
How the light of heart shivers on me!
Is it the look of the flowering woman,
who left her behind,
when she left the room?
From here the hearth fire gradually glows

Nocturnal darkness covered my eye,
her gaze touched me there:
I gained warmth and day.
Blessed was the sun’s light;
Her blissful radiance shone around my head –
until behind mountains she sank.

A new faint appearance of the fire
Once again, when she left,
Her glow struck me in the evening;
even the old ash tree trunk
gleamed in golden glow:
the blossom bleaches, the light becomes clearer;
nighttime darkness covers my eyes:
deep in the bosom of the mountains only lightless embers glow.

Ramón Vinay
August 31, 1911 – January 4, 1996

Ramon Vinay was a Chilean-born singer (Chillán, Chile), best known for his performances of Italian and German heroic-tenor roles.

Vinay was 5 when his mother died. His father later returned to France and in time took his three sons to France as well. The singer was sent to Mexico to study when he was 15.

In 16 seasons with the Metropolitan Opera, from 1945 to 1961, Mr. Vinay sang 14 roles, and was perhaps best known for his interpretation of the title role in Verdi’s “Otello,” in which he opened the Met’s 1948-49 season. He was also closely associated with the summer Wagner festival at Bayreuth in the 1950’s and sang widely in Europe and South America.

He sang Don Jose in his debut with the New York City Opera in September 1945 and with the Metropolitan Opera the next February. His most frequent Met roles, in addition to Don Jose and Otello, were Canio in “I Pagliacci,” Saint-Saens’s Samson, Wagner’s Tristan, Radames in “Aida” and Herod in “Salome.”

In a famous 1959 Met “Tristan und Isolde,” Vinay was the first of three indisposed Tristans who agreed to sing an act apiece opposite the company’s new Isolde, Birgit Nilsson. He was followed by Karl Liebl and Albert da Costa.

Vinay made his Bayreuth debut as Tristan, with Herbert von Karajan conducting, in 1952. Over the next five seasons, he also sang Parsifal, Siegmund in “Die Walkure” and Tannhauser. In 1962, he returned to Bayreuth, a baritone again, singing Telramund in “Lohengrin.”

As a baritone, Vinay also sang Iago in “Otello,” Verdi’s Falstaff, Scarpia in “Tosca” and Doctor Schon in “Lulu.” In 1966, he returned to the Met for a single performance of the comic bass role of Don Bartolo in “The Barber of Seville.” He was an “honored guest” at the Met’s Centennial Gala in 1983.

Arturo Toscanini and Wilhelm Furtwangler were among the conductors with whom Mr. Vinay sang “Otello.” Toscanini’s 1947 broadcast performance with the NBC Symphony was recorded by RCA.

Even as a tenor, however, his vocal timbre retained its dark, baritonal colouration.

A fine actor, Vinay was also the first tenor to sing the role of Otello on television. That was in 1948, in the initial telecast of an entire opera from the Met. He also sang Otello at La Scala, in Salzburg and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. In all, he performed it hundreds of times. He is said to be one of the two opera singers to have sung both Otello and Iago (the baritone villain) in Verdi’s tragic masterpiece during the course of a career (the other being Carlos Guichandut).