The Baritone & Bass (!) Roles of Dramatic Tenor Ramón Vinay

By David Salazar

Ramón Vinay was one of the greatest dramatic tenors of all-time, his dark and potent voice often cited as the shining example of what Verdi’s “Otello” should sound like. In fact, Carlo Bergonzi famously declared that Vinay’s was the only one he found suitable for the role of the tragic Moor.

Vinay, born on August 31, 1912, in Chile, actually got his start as a baritone before taking on the dramatic tenor roles of Wagner and the like. At the end of his career, he made a return to that baritonal repertoire, matching a path that has since been matched by Plácido Domingo.

Here is a look at Vinay’s baritone roles.


The first role that Vinay ever sang was in this role from Donizetti’s “La Favorita” with an opera touring company.


Once his Otello days were seemingly over, Vinay turned to the villainous role of Iago for some time. However, on what was to be his final ever performance on stage, Vinay, who was interpreting Iago, suddenly came on as Otello in the final act of the performance.

Meanwhile, check out his “Credo.”


While he was a noted Wagnerian, taking on Parsifal, Siegfried, Siegmund, Tannhäuser, and even Tristan to great acclaim at Bayreuth, Vinay was not a noted Lohengrin. He did, however, perform the villainous Telramund to acclaim, his account consecrated on a recording conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch.


As with Telramund, this was a role that Vinay turned to at the end of his career. A performance from Venice in 1965 has been recorded and preserved for posterity with a cast that includes Ruggero Raimondi as Pistola, Laura Londi as Alice and Oralia Dominguez as Quickly.

He also took on other Verdi baritones, including Rigoletto and Amonasro, though those performances were from early in his career.


He sang this opera throughout his early years as a baritone in Mexico and then would eventually return to the villain in the later years of his career. Check him out in an incredible passage from Act 2 alongside none other than Birgit Nilsson in the title role of “Tosca.”

Bonus – A Preview of a Bass Role 

Ever imagine a dramatic tenor taking on a bass role? Well, Vinay did just that, performing the duet from Don Carlo between King Philip and the Grand Inquisitor in 1971. James Levine Conducted the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall. Check it out.


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