Recital, St. John's Smith Square, London, 7 January 2001

Has Peru produced the next Pavarotti?
By Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 10 January 10 2001

It would seem that the 21st century has found the first of its great
tenors. When Juan Diego Florez finished his solo recital at St John's
Smith Square, something akin to pandemonium broke out, as everyone rose
to their feet clamouring for more. The elegant young Peruvian, who has
already wowed audiences at Covent Garden in Rossini's Otello and La
Cenerentola, is now very much a star.

One hopes it won't go to his head, for a certain innocence, a quality of
guileless naivety and an unselfconscious ability to communicate the
pleasure he takes in singing, are all part of his style and appeal. It
could be catastrophic if he started giving himself airs, as tenors are
wont to do.

A specialist in the bel canto repertory, he opted for a taxing programme
of arias and songs that included the daring and the reputedly
impossible. Most tenors junk Almaviva's second act scena from Rossini's
The Barber of Seville on the grounds that it is unsingable. Florez
closed the first half of his recital with it, spinning out its
protracted phrases with an exquisite ease, the coloratura flashing and
twinkling with spontaneous accuracy and expressive warmth.

He also chose A Mes Amis from Donizetti's La Fille du Régiment, with its
infamous nine top Cs. One was vaguely conscious of a gauntlet being
thrown down, for it was Luciano Pavarotti's singing of the aria 35 years
ago at Covent Garden that made him famous. Riotously exuberant, Florez
sang it in Italian rather than French, the high Cs pinging with
thrilling accuracy.

Throughout, it was the liquidity of Florez's voice - the sumptuous ease
and swiftness with which it moves and the generous ebb and flow of
golden tone - that took your breath away, even when he chose material
that avoids the consciously spectacular. He tackled songs by Tosti,
infusing them with a limpidity and a passionate intensity that cut away
all the usual associations with Victorian stuffiness.

A group of Peruvian songs by Rosa Ayarza de Morales found him exulting
in their catchy Afro-Hispanic cross-rhythms and syncopations. During the
first of these, When the Turtledove Cries, he suddenly stopped. "I've
got lost," he giggled. It is one of those moments in a recital that
could cause a singer to lose nerve. "As you know, I should know this
song by heart. Do you mind if I start again?" No one did, and his second
rendition - complete this time - was different from his first, with an
inward, innate stillness replacing mercurial wit and flickering irony.
It would be wrong to say the evening was without its flaws. He took a
while to warm up, in a couple of Mozart arias in which you were
conscious of a lack of warmth in tone during some of his soft singing.
His pianist, Vincenzo Scalera, was occasionally heavy-handed and
indelicate. None of this ultimately mattered as everyone was swept away
by the beauty and the joy of it all.

(c) Guardian Newspapers Ltd.

Fourth tenor in need of a voice of his own
By Anna Picard, The Independent, 14 January 2001

[The first part of this article reviewed Alagna's concert at the Salle Gaveau Paris]

... At 27, the Rossinian tenor Juan Diego Flôrez is a decade younger than
Alagna, but listening to his perfectly poised recital in St John's Smith
Square the age-gap seemed much wider. If Alagna is satin sheets and a
rose between the teeth, Flôrez is Egyptian cotton and a jar of Conran
Shop pebbles placed just so. His is an exquisite voice; an improbable
thing of liquid, careless beauty delivered with effortless charm, cool
style and beautifully traced, intelligent phrasing. Am I gushing? Well,
you should have heard the rest of the audience.

Flôrez's delicate, absorbing programme of bel canto songs and arias was
the most elegant recital I have heard from a tenor. Why? Because he
sings like a soprano. The artists Flôrez recalls are not tenors but the
silvery-toned Lisa Della Casa and the young Barbara Hendricks - both
highly sensitive to text and music. Like Della Casa and Hendricks,
Flôrez supports a small, supple sound with pristine technique and knows
how to draw in an audience through notes that have a ring far greater
than their volume. His response to Vincenzo Scalera's piano
accompaniment was quick, his communication of the poetry lucid and

Perfect beauty on its own can be boring; throw out enough top Bs and the
listener quickly takes them for granted. Cast five successive top Ds
into the air and you underline the fact that this is a unique
instrument. But add to this a sense of style that looks at Donizetti
from the classical perspective of Mozart and you have much more than a
recital - you have a magical musical experience.

(c) The Independent
This page last updated 30 April 2001