As much of a novelty as it may be to hear a famous baritone and bass communicating in song without need of a tenor, it's at least as fascinating to compare the instruments of Thomas Hampson and Samuel Ramey in criteria which have little to do with their respective ranges. Ramey is certainly the meatier if not the more macho of the two: he can infuse interest even into a recitative from 'Marino Faliero' (which despite the album's subtitle is not all that "famous") and can wring more emotion from the imperative "Ascolta" in 'Simon Boccanegra' than most singers can from a whole aria. Hampson's is a lighter though pleasant voice, with considerable comic ability evident in the Donizetti and Cimarosa duets.
Interestingly, the emotional demands of the "serious" Verdi operas seem to inspire Hampson to a fuller use of his baritone, and the inherent character differences between the two singers are put to particularly good use in the selection from 'Attila.' A rare glimpse at the lighter side of Verdi, from the rarely-performed 'Un Giornio di Regno,' allows both composer and singers to make fun of macho to delightful effect. The conductor and his orchestra support the showcase with faultless pacing and dynamics.