Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bruce Almighty Ford: A seriously underrated singer of our time

This evening, late after a rather trying day, I came to my computer to read a simple email from a student that I teach when she comes to NY. I recently befriended her regular teachers, two wonderfully knowledgeable teachers who came to NY and graciously invited me to dinner. At one point, when discussing great singers, we came to the name of tenor Bruce Ford, an excellent singer I had only heard once before I truly understood what great voices were. I was very impressed back then with Ford's performance of the Count in Barber of Seville at some venue in NY, but this was at a time when the world of tenors to me was crowned by the legend of Franco Corelli and probably anything spinto. This evening, the note from the student was brief: "David [her regular teacher] wanted you to listen and analyze this clip":

After having analyzed hundreds of sound files with acoustic analyzers I did not need my electronic tools to recognize every technical thing I hold dear in the voice of Mr. Ford.

1) An even range from low to extreme top of a voice with near perfect phonation.

2) Messa di voce on not only easy notes but also the very top notes

3) A top range that seems endless

4) A secure understanding of formant resonance tuning particularly with respect to the acoustic shift in the passaggio.

5) Near perfect weight management that smooths out any hint of a muscular shift anywhere in the voice.

6) Skillful breath managment (exception: at the beginning of the piano section, there was a moment when the breath pressure was not adequate. So sue Mr. Ford for having a moment of humanity in an otherwise perfect execution!

7) A near flawless legato!

Add to that:

A) Secure musical intelligence

B) Concentrated dramatic conviction

C) Firm linguistic command

D) Not to mention a dashing figure even in that costume!

So what does this magnificent artist lack? I have not followed his career closely but will study him. He has been around for a long time, and has sustained an excellent career remaining faithful to the Bel Canto repertoire best suited to his excellent flexible voice.

The only reason I can think that Mr. Ford is not considered one of the greatest tenors of his time would have to be the fact that the repertoire at most houses consists of the operatic pop hits like Carmen, Tosca, Aida, Traviata and Butterfly, operas that do not feature Mr. Ford's incredible gift.

Even in the company of very worthy colleagues with world-class careers of their own, Mr. Ford reigns supreme.

Consider me henceforth a fan!!!!! I hope I will have the pleasure of encountering Mr. Ford someday to thank him for keeping the great art of Bel Canto alive!

P.S. No one asked me to post the clips on my blog. I was sincerely quite blown away by Mr. Ford's great performances on youtube and simply felt a pedagogical obligation to comment on this magnificent example of our art form.

© 01/04/2009

1 comment:

George said...

Great tribute to an amazing singer! I too have only paid much notice to this voice somehwat recently. The past few weeks I've been watching the videos of him on YouTube with an ever-dropping jaw. What a fine example to anyone who aspires to bel canto singing! It wouldn't be surprising if he had gotten offers in his past to sing heavier repertoire due to the natural darkness in his voice, but he wisely made a career for himself singing all the obscure bel canto roles that really no one else can sing! This man deserves a place in the canon of tenors for sure.