Recital: Kansas City, 21 April 2002
Peruvian tenor is next one to watch
Paul Horsley, The Kansas City Star, 22 April 2002
Each great tenor is unique and distinguishes himself in ways that
continue to inspire the public's fascination in this most peculiar of
Juan Diego Florez, who gave his United States recital debut Sunday at
the Folly Theater, has much of the charisma and vocal splendor of the
best tenors of our era.
His program of songs and arias cajoled and thrilled an audience that
felt perhaps it was taking part in something historic. Florez, you see,
is the fifth important tenor to make his U.S. or world recital debut on
the Harriman Arts Program's series -- Pavarotti having been the first,
And while the Metropolitan Opera's newest star tenor seemed an apt
choice for this proud succession, it remains pointless to speculate on
whether he is "the next Pavarotti," because the two singers' vocal
styles are as different as Aretha's and Mariah's.
Florez is a bright-voiced "Rossinian" tenor, though that doesn't mean
that Rossini is all he can sing. Fierce and infinitely flexible, at
turns luxuriant or stern, his voice seems to have a life apart from its
owner. Partly this is a result of its "forwardness," its use of much
head and upper chest.
On Sunday this allowed him to negotiate with extraordinary skill the
death-defying passagework of Mozart's "Si spande al sole in faccia" or
Rossini's "Cessa di piu."
The latter, often cut from "The Barber of Seville" but restored for the
current Met production in which Florez stars, allowed the tenor to show
the full extent of his hypercharged technique and limpid, metallic upper
Bellini's "E serbato a questo acciaro" had the right sense of florid bel
canto urgency, while in Donizetti's "Ah! mes amis" the famous series of
nine high C's were like little ingots of silver shot from a cannon.
In the three traditional Peruvian songs we observed a different Florez,
a sort of folksy nightclub singer, complete with seductive theatrics.
Elsewhere, as in the songs like Mozart's "Ridente la calma" or the three
Tosti numbers, he plumbed a range of moods -- and revealed the various
traits of his voice. His high register can carry a sort of preciousness,
the midrange a sweetness and the low register a sort of breathy roar.
In the three encores -- the fragrant "La Jota" by Serrano, the torchy
"Grenada" and the ubiquitous "La donna e mobile" -- the tenor was in his
element, playing without excess the different aspects of a Latin lover.
"Playing?" It's the tension between the stereotype and the perceived
reality of this tenor with the matinee-idol looks that will continue to
ensure his success.