"Great Operatic Arias" Arias and duets by Donizetti, Lalo, Bizet, Flotow, Delibes, Verdi, Mozart, Rossini, Handel and Rimsky-Korsakov
Bruce Ford, tenor/Philharmonia Orch/David Parry, cond.
Chandos 3006 (M) (DDD) TT: 62:06

This is part of a series by Chandos presenting opera in English. Complete English-language performances of Rossini's The Barber of Seville, Puccini's Tosca and La Boheme, as well as excerpts from Mussorgsky's Boris Godounov have already been released. Count Almaviva on the Barber is the fine young American tenor Bruce Ford, who is also the star of this new CD presenting familiar tenor repertoire in English translation. Ford is perhaps best known for his achievements in the high-flying world of Rossini's operas, but here he performs excerpts from a wide range of French, German, Italian and Russian lyric tenor repertoire. The literate and quite musical translations are by several individuals including conductor David Parry who, along with the Philharmonia Orchestra, provide the tenor with sensitive accompaniment throughout.

Bruce Ford posseses an attractive voice, and uses it in a highly musical way. Technically he is above reproach. Not surprisingly, given his eminence in Rossini, the coloratura in Almaviva's final-act aria poses no difficulties for him. He also knows how to vary dynamics for expressive effect -- his soft singing is well-supported and at full volume the voice has a welcome ring. Interpretively he is conscientious and ardent.

My only reservation about this disc relates to what, in the end, may have been its intended purpose. Ford's diction is not always as clear as ideally it should be for a disc that attempts to demonstrate the advantages of opera in English translation. Reasons for this shortcoming are, I suspect, many. I have heard recordings by this tenor in Italian in which his diction is superb. English, on the other hand, is a notoriously difficult language to sing operatically with both textural clarity and beauty of tone. Ford may well be sacrificing the former for the latter. Additionally, the warm, but slightly distant and resonant acoustic, may be partially to blame. Soprano Mary Plazas and tenor Barry Banks, who join Bruce Ford in duets from, respectively, Lakme, and Armida, are likewise not always ideal in terms of clarity of diction. Still, I highly recommend this CD as a fine sampling of a considerable talent; Ford should be providing satisfying performances for years to come.

K.M. (Oct. 1999)