The Barber of Seville, New York Metropolitan Opera, January 2002
Florez Makes Smashing Debut at Met, Associated Press, 11 January 2002
Two Debuts, Planned and Unplanned, New York Times, 12 January 2002
Tenor triumphant in Rossini rarity, New York Daily News, 14 January 2002
Bring your own gag, The Financial Times, 19 April 2002 [in The Lemon Grove]
Florez Makes Smashing Debut at Met
Ronald Blum, Associated Press, 11 January 2002

NEW YORK (AP) - It's not often that a tenor has it all - youth, looks
and a sweet, soaring voice.

Juan Diego Florez put the complete package together Thursday night with
a smashing Metropolitan Opera (news - web sites) debut in Rossini's ``Il
Barbiere di Siviglia.''

After living in Philadelphia from 1993-96 while studying at The Curtis
Institute of Music, the Peruvian tenor made his career in Europe,
beginning with a breakthrough appearance in 1996 at the Rossini Opera
Festival in Pesaro, Italy, where he took over at short notice in
``Matilde di Shabran.''

Since then, he has appeared at La Scala, The Royal Opera, the Paris
Opera and the Vienna State Opera, mostly in coloratura roles such as
Count Almaviva, who wins Rosina's heart in ``The Barber of Seville,'' as
the opera is known in English.

Florez, who turns 29 on Sunday, thrilled the crowd at the Met on
Thursday night. In the opening act, his voice sounded a little on the
light side, perhaps a sign of nervousness. It got stronger as the night
went on and he held the final high note in ``Cessa di piu resistere''
(``Give up your resistance'') for at least 10 seconds.

The crowd in the 3,800-seat auditorium responded with a prolonged
ovation. As he gets older, Florez could develop into a great spinto.

Music fans should mark their calendars now for April 11, when he is to
sing the same role at the Met opposite Vesselina Kasarova, as Rosina, in
the mezzo-soprano's twice-delayed Met debut. It should be a night of
coloratura fireworks.

Unfortunately, Thursday night's Rosina wasn't up to the task.

Ruth Ann Swenson, who was to sing, felt lightheaded Thursday and
canceled, Met general manager Joseph Volpe announced from the stage.

Paula Almerares, a soprano from Argentina, made her Met debut and looked
nervous. Early on, in the showpiece aria ``Un voce poco fa'' (``A voice
has just''), she sounded shrill on her top notes. It wasn't a horrible
performance, for she did look youthful, but it wasn't particularly

Baritone Dwayne Croft was outstanding as Figaro, with a suprisingly good
coloratura sound for a singer who specializes, and excels, in dramatic
roles. He was charismatic in ``Largo al factotum'' (``Make way for the
top man'') and hammed it up, but that's who Figaro is in this opera, a
rascal who is gossip central in Seville's daily life.

Claudia Waite was excellent as the housekeeper, and Paul Plishka was his
usually solid and buffoonish Dr. Bartolo. Conductor Yves Abel drew a
brisk, clean sound from the Met orchestra, holding down the level during
the famous overture.

The 1982 John Cox production, with Robin Wagner's revolving set and
costumes by Patricia Zipprodt, provides a pleasing, slightly Moorish

Two Debuts, Planned and Unplanned
Anne Midgette, New York Times, 12 January 2002

It's often said of "The Barber of Seville" that the first act is better
than the second. It was striking, then, that the reverse was true at the
Metropolitan Opera on Thursday night. The first act seemed soggy, like a
half-fallen soufflé; in the second, some of the principals improved, and
the performance had a rousing, satisfying finish.

The news of the evening was two Met debuts: one scheduled, one not. Juan
Diego Flórez, the Peruvian tenor who sang Almaviva, has already launched
a large-scale international career and just released a solo recording of
Rossini arias on Decca; his first Met appearance was awaited with some
anticipation. Paula Almerares, on the other hand, was a last-minute
substitute; the Argentine soprano jumped in on short notice to replace
an ailing Ruth Ann Swenson.

Mr. Flórez can be very happy with his debut; the audience certainly was.
His voice is bright and firm, relatively light but ringing; it has a
metallic, slightly driven edge, but it's not excessively pushed. His
rapid vibrato sometimes made his coloratura work unclear, even in his
first aria, slightly bleaty in places, and he lost brilliance and color
in the course of the first act. But his bravura showpiece at the end of
Act II was a piece of fine singing and deservedly brought down the
house. His Almaviva was headstrong, spoiled and very young: a convincing
character portrait.

Ms. Almerares deserves praise for presenting a saucy Rosina on such
short notice, but her debut was less showstopping than her
counterpart's. Her voice is small with a dusky rounded tone in the low
notes that utterly fails to reflect in her diminutive top notes except
insofar as these seem to be back in her throat without the ping to carry
or blossom. She did, however, improve in the second act as well, and she
did make some beautiful sounds in the middle of her voice.

The sogginess of the first act can be ascribed in part to the tessitura
of the role of Figaro: it simply lies too high for Dwayne Croft, who
audibly tired in the course of his entrance aria, indubitably the
best-known section of the opera. The high role leached the rich color in
the lower part of his voice from his upper register despite his attempts
to compensate with comic overacting.

Another culprit was Simone Alaimo, who as Basilio managed to go through
many of the motions of being funny to no perceptible comic effect and
whose singing was unimpressive. Paul Plishka, however, demonstrated the
meaning of the term veteran in the most respectful and complimentary
sense as a droll Bartolo, despite his wonted vocal wobble.

Actually, it stood to reason that Act II would be better than Act I:
with fewer solo arias, Act II rises and falls less with individual
singers than with the conductor. And Yves Abel and the orchestra were
excellent. From the start of the overture, Mr. Abel kept the music
infused with a taut fresh energy, lean and lithe. The sound was both
small and agile with even its loudest flourishes stripped of hyperbolic
bombast, and individual voices in the orchestra, thrown into sharp
relief, rose happily to the occasion. Given this high quality setting
the tone for much of the second act, and Mr. Flórez's strong finale, an
evening that after the first half seemed questionable ultimately ended
on a happy note.

Tenor triumphant in Rossini rarity
Howard Kissel, New York Daily News, 14 January 2002

Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" is one of the most familiar operas,
but in its current incarnation at the Metropolitan Opera you will hear
an aria that won't be at all familiar.

Some of its musical material is the same as the aria that ends Rossini's
"Cinderella." You seldom hear it because there aren't many singers who
can handle it.

Juan Diego Florez can.

The huge ovation he received after finishing the aria cemented a love
affair with the audience that started when he sang his first note.

The Peruvian tenor, making his Met debut, is not yet 30. His voice has a
golden, youthful sweetness. More important, he has an astonishing
technique that makes you aware not how fiendishly hard this aria is but
rather how beautiful he can make it sound.

The title role is essayed by the marvelous singing actor Dwayne Croft,
who looks and sounds perfect for the mischievous, dashing Figaro, just
as Florez looks and sounds as young as romantic tenors are supposed to
be but rarely are.

The other comic roles are handled superbly by Paul Plishka and Simone

Also making her debut Thursday night was Argentinian soprano Paula
Almeraras, an accomplished, appealing singer stepping in for the
indisposed Ruth Ann Swenson.

Robin Wagner's sets are a stylish re-creation of Seville, a perfect
backdrop for this elegant opera. In the pit, Yves Abel kept the
orchestra light and made the opera's many ensemble numbers shimmer.

That the key performers should be so natural in their parts is a
reminder that Rossini's opera is the true forebear of musical comedy.
This is one of those rare instances when the performance has a genuine
musical-comedy verve.


Page last updated on: June 27, 2003