Recital, Vancouver, 17 June 2003
Vancouver Recital Society flyer
Trip to Tenor Heaven
Rod Parke, Seattle Gay News, June 2003
At barely 30, Juan Diego Florez is already a master. The supremely handsome
Peruvian tenor sang a long program of demanding music with apparent ease. A
perfect vocal technique had every note under total control. In spite of (in
his words) "suffering with dryness" of the throat, his tone never lost its
shimmering intensity. In fact, Florez showed remarkable stamina, even after
nailing each of the nine (9!) high C's in the final aria of the printed
The elderly woman who remarked to my friend that the singer's voice was "a
little thin and metallic" didn't understand the type of tenor we were
hearing. Juan Diego Florez is what one calls a light lyric tenor, often
called a Rossini tenor. He is too smart to ever attempt the roles so
frequently sung by the likes of Domingo or Pavarotti. Those roles by
composers Verdi, Puccini, etc. require not louder but heavier voices. Juan
Diego's roles are of the 'bel canto' school, so gloriously represented by
composers Bellini, Donizetti, Mozart, and Rossini. This music offers the
singer ample opportunity to show off the vocal gymnastics of fast runs, long
limpid lines, and perfectly even tone.
So, if this tenor's voice was not hefty, juicy, or heroic, what did we hear?
A beautiful, bright, light, and absolutely even tone, colored by a tiny,
shimmering vibrato that characterized every line. (It was a considerably
warmer, richer sound than captured on his cd's.)
His mastery of the voice was no less than his musicianship. Moreover,
Florez often caressed his phrases in a way that made one fantasize knowing
this man more intimately! All musical lines had somewhere to go while
carrying warmth of feeling. Phrases were clearly worked out and modulated
from melting pianos to piercing fortes. Indeed, the top notes often had my
ears ringing. The only element that seemed missing was a clear trill.
The sold-out audience in Vancouver's intimate Chan Centre seemed to sense
that they were hearing the world's finest Rossini tenor. I would maintain
that Florez is the best since at least the 1960's. By the last encore,
whistles and shouts almost drowned out the applause. (Speaking of encores,
a friend in the audience heard the tenor a couple days ago in Berkeley,
where he repeated the aria with nine high C's as one of his encores!)
The Vancouver program began with a Mozart concert aria, 'Misero! O sogno, a
son desto?' Immediately apparent was the artist's intense infusion of every
phrase with musical meaning. A Bellini song and aria (from "I Capuleti e i
Montecchi") added a demonstration of long lines and total breath control.
Then the first half ended with a song and an aria by Rossini (from "La
Cenerentola"), which introduced the first really florid singing of the
evening. No other tenor singing today on the world stage can produce what
we heard here.
The highlight of the program for me came after the intermission with a set
of arias by Gluck (1714-1787). Indeed, the thrice-familiar 'J'ai perdu mon
Euridice' surprised me both in the excellence of Florez' French diction and
in the passion of his delivery. 'L'espoir renait dans mon ame,' also from
"Orphee et Eurydice," brought even more impressive vocal fireworks. All
this "showing off" in no way got in the way of conveying the singer's love
and respect for the music.
There followed four Spanish songs, two of which were arranged for piano
accompaniment by the singer himself. In them he showed a playful,
passionate personality. His always fine accompanist was Martin Katz.
Last on the printed program came the fireworks of 'A mes amis' from
Donizetti's opera "La Fille du Regiment." I have heard many tenors sing
those nine high C's but never with the perfection of these. (No, not even
Pavarotti.) Best of all, Florez did not slight the rest of the aria, making
it much more than a circus act.
During encores, Juan Diego referred to his "dryness" and that he had to
really rely on his technique to do the hard stuff. Nonetheless, he sang yet
another gut-buster aria, Verdi's 'La donna e mobile,' which ended with a
perfect run and another high C.
Through the efforts of the Vancouver Recital Society, Juan Diego Florez will
return to that city early next year, this time in the huge Queen Elizabeth
Theater. I am so grateful for these chances to hear him, most especially in
the intimacy of the Chan Centre.
Reviewer Rod Parke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This page was last updated on: October 5, 2003