One of the world’s most beautiful voices is silent forever. The great Niçois baritone, Franck Ferrari, passed away on 18th June.
The Opéra de Paris, the Scala in Milan, the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles…. Franck Ferrari was a fixture on the most prestigious stages and venues of this world for many years. But his heart was at home in Nice, the city he was born in, which he stayed true to, and in which on June 18 he finished the course of an all too short life of 52 years after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
Among all the 30 roles he sang – which covered the entire diverse universe of 18th to 20th century opera, as well as some contemporary repertory – none marked him more than that of Escamillo, the torero in Bizet’s Carmen. It became the role he was synonymously identified with. Loved by critics and the audience alike, Franck humbly attributed his enormous vocal range to talent, and his remarkable precision to hard work.
Talent and work indeed but it also took a strong personality to make it in classical music, a world which looks so playful seen from the auditorium but is all about grind and competition backstage. Franck’s modest French-Italian family background helped him to be ambitious while staying grounded, firmly rooted in the terra nissarda which he loved so much. His father adored opera, which was “accessible, fun entertainment for the masses, as an Italian you’d just sing along,” as he once described his experience growing up. And that passion, handed down from father to son, turned into Franck’s calling. After his musical education at the Conservatoire de Nice he spent a stint as an army parachuter but finally chose a career on stage.
A jovial, fun-loving fellow, never elitist, he quickly made a name for himself the world over. Débussy or Puccini, Gluck or Offenbach, Verdi or Mozart – not only did he have musical talent in abundance but also a knack for acting his character. Despite his serious illness, he still worked as hard as he could – appearing in a concert in Paris just two weeks ago, and tragically, also scheduled to sing Hercule in Gluck’s Alceste in Paris on the day that would be his last one on Earth. Unforgotten also his rendition of Nice’s anthem Nissa La Bella on many occasions or his reinterpretation of contemporary music such as If you give me your Heart.
A great artist, and a great Niçois, has left us and will be much missed but his immortal voice and the memories of Franck Ferrari will stay with us forever.
Lead image via YouTube