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Friday, 13 September, 2002, 09:33 GMT 10:33 UK
My Music: Bruce Ford
Bruce Ford by Russell Duncan
American tenor Bruce Ford is widely acknowledged one of the finest singers of his generation.

Fond of the most demanding Mozart and bel canto roles, he is currently appearing as Emperor Tito in Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito at London's Royal Opera House.

It is an exhausting role, the tenor told BBC News Online: "Mozart wrote marvellous scenes which seamlessly connect without stopping - so that the singer will find himself on the stage for a very long time without a break for water or tea.

"You often find yourself biting your tongue, just to get a little saliva going."

Which is your favourite opera?

I don't have a favourite opera as such but I do have a favourite composer and could you possibly guess who that would be? Actually, it's a toss-up between two, Mozart and Rossini.

What was the most recent album you bought?

Mexicanisimo, an album by Vicente Fernandez, "King of the Rancheros" and about the best Mexican Mariachi singer you will ever hear.

My wife, Hetty, and I sat in a restaurant on the Riviera Maya in Mexico and didn't leave until the recording of him singing had finished playing. I just wish I could learn how to put that much passion into my singing without hurting my vocal chords.

Where do you most like listening to music?

There are times when solitude is your best company with the CD player. Other times, being pulled along with an audience's laughter and pain in a live performance is spellbinding.

What songs do you sing in the bath?

I don't sing in the bath, I bathe. I sing in the shower! And what do I sing? Boring old scales. The shower was made for warming up the voice and that is why I have such a small repertoire in that venue.

Is there any music that always makes you cry?

Anything that is performed with emotion. I'm not embarrassed, I cry at the movies!

Can you remember the first records you ever bought?

I remember, at the age of 16, buying a vinyl disc of the RCA Victor Red Seal recording of Tosca with Jussi Björling, Leonard Warren and Zinka Milanov, conducted by Erich Leinsdorf. I played it so much that the grooves began to look like ditches.

The first time I can remember buying a single was when I purchased If You Leave Me Now by the group Chicago. Please understand - I was in love!

Is there a piece of music that you wish you had written?

I'm only an interpreter of song, not a composer. But if I was, I would love to have written like Mozart, Britten, Rossini, Bellini, Donezetti and everything that Stephen Sondheim and Jacque Brel ever wrote. Did I leave anyone out?

Do you prefer CDs or vinyl?

I'll answer your question with a question. If for some inexplicable reason you were told you had to give up your CD player, losing the incredible fidelity and noise reduction which has revolutionised recorded sound and would have to go back to the scratchy and dull noise of vinyl, would you do it? I rest my case.

How long do you spend browsing in record shops?

Being most of the time overly air-conditioned, I try to stay out of them for reasons of vocal health. Every once in a while my wife will drag me into them to see if they have one of my recordings.

Which is the contemporary opera which you think is most likely to gain classic status?

I was convinced that Willy Stark by Carlisle Floyd would become a classic like the book it was based upon (All The King's Men by Robert Penn Warren), but it never did.

I won't make a prediction, but I thought Flight by Jonathan Dove was one of the most provocative and entertaining contemporary operas I have ever seen. It was wonderful!

Which tenor did you most admire when you were developing your technique?

The Incomparable Björling - full stop. In fact that was the name of the recording that my brother owned and I would sit for hours listening to him. I still do.

If you organised your dream music festival, who would you have as headline and supporting acts?

For opera, Isabella Colbran - and before you start looking into your Music Dictionary, I'll just tell you that she has been dead for a few hundred years, but she was said to have had the most beautiful and flexible soprano voice in the Bel Canto era.

As supporting act, the great Tenor Andrea Nozzari (who's roles are a bit of a specialty of mine), although as a tenor, I doubt he would take kindly to being a "back-up act" to a soprano!

For pop music, the band Chicago and the back up band, Queen. Real musicians who wrote great music! Oh, now I'm getting all nostalgic...

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