Faculty Bio

James Ruff

Adjunct Artist in Music


University of Southern California and Boston University

Tenor James Ruff has received critical praise for his versatile singing on both the concert and operatic stage. He has sung as soloist with such Early Music groups as the Handel and Haydn Society, Newberry Consort, King's Noyse, Aradia Ensemble, New York Collegium, Early Music New York, Music of the Baroque, NYS Baroque, My Lord Chamberlain's Consort, Ensemble Abendmusik, La Fenice and Arcadia Players, and under such conductors as Christopher Hogwood, Andrew Parrott and Jane Glover. As a specialist in French Baroque repertoire, he sang Charpentier's Messe de Minuit and Te Deum over the CBC airwaves from Toronto. He has made numerous tours singing the title role in The Play of Daniel, with Early Music New York, at the Spoleto Festival in Italy as well as in Florida, Tennessee, Missouri and New York City. On the concert stage, Ruff continues to sing the oratorios and concert works of Mozart, Bach, Haydn and Britten. He has made a specialty of the "Roasting Swan" in Orff's Carmina Burana, singing at numerous colleges in the Northeast. He has sung at various summer festivals including Tanglewood, Ravinia, Boston Early Music Festival. Connecticut Early Music Festival and the Spoleto Festival in Italy. Recent concert performances include the Evangelist in Bach's St. Matthew Passion with the Hudson Valley Bach Festival, the Evangelist in Bach’s St. John Passion at Vassar College, Carmina Burana and Mozart's Requiem at UConn On the operatic stage, Ruff has performed leading roles such as Tamino in Mozart's The Magic Flute (Opera New England), Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni (Longwood Opera) and Ferrando in Così fan Tutte (Boston University), the title role in Debussy's Pélléas et Mélisande (Concord Symphony), Lindoro in Rossini's l'Italiana in Algeri (Harvard University), Don Narciso in il Turco in Italia (Boston Academy of Music) and the title role in Le Comte Ory (Boston University, Glimmerglass Opera, Canadian Opera Company). He also has sung leading roles in light opera, such as Pâris in Offenbach's La Belle Hélène (Boston Academy of Music) and the title role in Romberg's The Student Prince (Ohio Light Opera). His work in Baroque opera includes Pirithous in Conradi's Ariadne at the Boston Early Music Festival, various Jesuit operas at Boston College, the title role in Charpentier's Actéon at the Longy School and Holofernes in Scarlatti's Giuditta with the Newberry Consort. He has enjoyed singing many modern works, including the role of Dov in the U.S. East Coast premiere of Michael Tippett's The Knot Garden, and William of Malmesbury in Richard Wilson’s Aethelred the Unready.  He was featured in Benjamin Britten's Paul Bunyan at Glimmerglass Opera, which was reprised at New York City Opera and broadcast nationally on PBS, "Live from Lincoln Center."

Upon receiving degrees in voice performance from the University of Southern California (bachelor of music degree, with minor in French) and Boston University (master of music degree, Opera Institute Certificate), Ruff went on to participate in the young artist programs of Glimmerglass Opera and the Opera Theatre of St. Louis and studied art song repertoire at Tanglewood with Phyllis Curtin and at the Steans Institute/Ravinia Festival with Thomas Hampson and Peter Schreier. He attended the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh, England, studying bel canto operatic repertoire with Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge. In addition, he has sung in master classes of such greats as Carlo Bergonzi and Régine Crespin. He studied French Baroque haute-contre repertoire and technique with Howard Crook. Ruff has served on the music faculties of Smith College, Amherst College, MIT, the University of Connecticut, Emerson College, Longy School of Music, Deerfield Academy and the Walnut Hill School for the Arts. Mr. Ruff currently teaches voice both at Vassar College and privately, and is director of music at Christ the King Episcopal Church in Stone Ridge, New York.  He has spent much time in recent years studying and performing both Scottish Gaelic Song and the Early Gaelic Wire Harp repertoire.  He placed in two Gaelic Song competitions at the 2009 Royal National Mòd in Oban, Scotland, and he plans a month of research & study of Gaelic Song in Edinburgh and Glasgow in 2011, funded by a grant from Vassar College.