A Conversation with Juan Diego Flórez
Tenor Juan Diego Flórez made his Metropolitan Opera debut in Rossini's
The Barber of Seville on January 10, 2002, just a few days short of his
29th birthday. He shared the stage with veterans Dwayne Croft (Figaro)
and Paul Plishka (Dr. Bartolo), and a young Argentine soprano, Paula
Almerares (Rosina), who made a last-minute Met debut in place of an
ailing Ruth Ann Swenson. It was a memorable night at the opera; Flórez's
"Cessa di piu resistere" garnered a lengthy and enthusiastic ovation
from a crowd that knows its Rossini and loves a hero. At the end of the
evening, it was clear that they had found theirs in the dashing, limber,
agile-voiced young man from Lima via Bergamo. A few days later,
iClassics sat down with Juan Diego, whose debut solo CD, Rossini Arias
is now available on iClassics.com.
iClassics: What's it like to sing at the Met for the first time?
Juan Diego Flórez: A dream come true - really! I had been there when I
was a student at Curtis - I'd come in to New York once a week for a
voice lesson, and I'd go to see an opera, and I'd always wonder, "When
will I sing here? Will I be able to sing here?" The Met is one of the
top five houses in the world, and I'd sung at the other four - La Scala,
Paris, Covent Garden, Vienna. So this is a big achievement for me.
And it's a pleasure to sing there - it's a huge house, with great
acoustics, and the people treat you very well, so you feel comfortable.
It's a wonderful experience. I was nervous, because I'm new there and
nobody knows me, and it's a little bit like a test. But my colleagues
Paul Plishka and Dwayne Croft have been great.
In fact, they seem to want to hear more of you rather than less. Your
Act II aria is usually cut from the opera.
Rockwell Blake used to sing this aria - because he could. That's the
thing - you have to be able to do it well, otherwise everybody's just
waiting for you to finish it so they can go home. My teacher, Ernesto
Palacios, was one of the first people to sing the aria.
Click to hear "Cessa di più resistere" (Il Barbiere di Siviglia).
When was the first time you remember thinking about being an opera
I was into pop music when I was younger - I sang on TV shows and in
piano bars and at music festivals. Then I went to Lima conservatory and
started studying singing and discovering my voice and what it could do.
At the same time I began to discover classical music, and that was a
kind of tidal wave of information. So it wasn't as if I woke up one day
and said "I will be an opera singer" - it happened as I discovered these
things and fell in love with music and singing. I kind of turned away
from popular music. But every so often I still like to grab my guitar
and sing Peruvian songs.
For me, for my personality - I've done the right thing. First of all, I
like what I'm doing. And opera singers don't have to deal with the
things that pop stars do - we can have a pretty normal life!
How did you get into bel canto repertoire? It's not the first place most
young tenors land.
From when I started, it was apparent that I had the ability to sing fast
passages naturally. I knew I was a light lyric tenor, but I wasn't sure
that bel canto was my path. In 1994 I met Ernesto Palacios and began to
study with him. That was helpful, especially because he was honest with
me about what I needed to do and what the possibilities were. That's
important, having someone who can tell you the truth about yourself.
With Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini - especially Rossini - you have to be
able to do everything well: make a phrase beautiful where there are no
fast notes, be romantic, be dramatic. My favorite moment in La
Cenerentola is the slow opening of the tenor aria, after the recitative.
It only lasts a minute, but it is very powerful. The fireworks are
impressive, but you can make people love Rossini with the slow moments,
Click to hear "Principe più non sei...Si di ritrovarla io giuro..." (La
How do you like being onstage?
It's a lot of fun. I love comic roles, because I like to be funny -
maybe I'm a better comic actor than serious actor. That doesn't mean I
prefer comic operas! I actually prefer Rossini's serious operas.
When I was at Curtis, I got to do a lot of operas - Barber of Seville,
Viaggio a Rheims, Fledermaus - so I got some important stage experience.
When I finished school and went to Italy to work, I was ready to take it
on. And that meant that when I was asked to step in to sing in Matilde
de Shabran at Pesaro, I knew that I could do the job. Of course it helps
to be young and fearless!
Where can we hear you in the coming year?
Well, there are a lot of Barbers of Seville this year! But besides doing
that in New York and Japan, I'm doing a series of recitals with songs by
Bellini and Rossini and some Peruvian folksongs I've arranged. I'm going
to London and La Scala to sing La Sonnambula, Salzburg for La Dona del
Lago, and then in September I'll do La Cenerentola at the Met.
Where are you hanging your hat these days?
My home is in Bergamo - but I'm very seldom there. My dream is to live
in a house by the sea, maybe have a vineyard - but right now I don't
have time for that. When I have a day off I try to relax, watch a little
soccer, cook a good meal for friends.
Name three things you'd like to see yourself do in the next ten years.
When I'm well-known enough to fill a big theater with people, I'd like
to do a concert to raise funds for poor children in Peru. After that,
I'd like to take a couple of months off to rest - maybe in that house by
This page was last updated on: August 26, 2002