Flórez in his New York recital debut at Alice Tully Hall
Photo by Jack Vartoogian

New York City, Alice Tully Hall, 25 January 2004
                    Recital Programme
                    Tenor Is the Night: Debut of the Age of Flórez, Newsday, 28 January 2004
                    Juan Diego Flórez, Financial Times, 27 January 2004
                    Arias From Familiar Sources and a Bit of Peru, New York Times, 30 January 2004
                    Andes Cute, Too, New York Magazine, 16 February 2004

Kansas City, Folly Theater, 22 January 2004
                    Tenor overcomes off night, The Kansas City Star, 24 January 2004   
Recital Programme
Alice Tully Hall, New York City, 25 January 2004, 2 pm (New York Recital Debut)

Mozart:  'Misero! o sogno...Aura che intorno spiri' K. 431 (425b)
Bellini:  'Ma rendi pur contento'
Bellini:  'È serbato, a questo acciaro' from I Capuleti e i Montecchi
Rossini:  'Deh tu m'assisti amore' from Il Signor Bruschino
Rossini:  'Che ascolto, ahimè' from Otello
Gluck:  'Oh del mio dolce ardor' from Paride ed Elena
Gluck:  'J'ai perdu mon Euridice' from Orphée et Eurydice
Gluck:  'L'espoir renait' from Orphée et Eurydice
Sas:  'El pajonal'
Ayarza de Morales:  'Hasta la guitarra llora'
Ayarza de Morales:  'Malhaya '
Donizetti:  'Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fête' from La fille du régiment

Donizetti:  'Una furtiva lagrima' from L'Elisir d'Amore
Tosti:  'L'alba separa dalla luce l'ombra'
Lara:  'Granada'
Rossini:  'Ah, il più lieto, il più felice' (cabaletta of 'Cessa di più resistere') from Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Serrano: 'Te quiero, morena' ('Jota Española') from El trust de los tenorios

Tenor Is the Night: Debut of the Age of Flórez
Marion Lignana Rosenberg, Newsday, 28 January 2004

The world of opera is rank with fogies, old and young, forever yammering about the lost, lamented "golden age" of singing. Sunday's Alice Tully Hall debut recital by tenor Juan Diego Flórez was tailor- made to shake the nostalgic sureties of this backward-looking crowd.

Flórez's short but stirring program - made half again as long by the five encores his audience demanded - was a display of vocalism so technically sure, heartfelt, poised and surpassingly beautiful that it left me wondering whether we might not need to acknowledge a new era of great singing: the age of Flórez.

Just 31, the Peruvian tenor has the chiseled features and elegant composure of the aristocrats painted by Raphael. Like those Renaissance lords', his gestures are few but telling; and like Maria Callas, he needs only a few notes to sketch a character or zero in on a composer's style.

Novelist Alessandro Baricco famously called Callas "the Guernica of vocalism," an explosion held in check. The more Apollonian Flórez unfurls his compact, burnished tone with a freedom and energy that suggest the ecstasy of Dionysius.

Flórez began Mozart's concert aria "Misero! O sogno" with a sigh that swelled up out of nothingness. The shadow of anguish darkened his face and timbre as he railed against the "thousand phantoms" of his "dreadful abode." Shortcomings? It was hard to believe that Mozart's unnamed character, as portrayed by this assured young man, would not somehow emerge triumphant.

Flórez brought a Callas-like sense of energy- within-repose to Bellini's "Ma rendi pur contento." His performance of Tebaldo's aria from "I Capuleti ed i Montecchi" was alive with choice details: flashing tone for acciaro (sword); a verbal caress on cor (heart); the reprise, breathless with longing, of Tebaldo's closing declaration of love for Juliet.

Where Flórez's Bellini was inward and brooding, his Rossini stood out for its decorum: the long, effortlessly graceful lines of "Deh, tu m'assisti amore" and the brilliance and evenness of tone of Otello's "Che ascolto, ohimè," capped by a volley of vocal fireworks that elicited gasps from the audience.

His Gluck was sublime, from the exquisitely tapered phrases of "O del mio dolce ardor" - one long sigh of yearning and bliss - to the stylized grief of Orphée's lament. While Flórez brought a manly determination to "L'espoir renait," not even he could make a persuasive case for this clattery display piece.

A brief set of Peruvian songs, including Rosa Mercedes Ayarza de Morales' sultry "Malhaya," raised hopes that Flórez would devote a future program to the riches of this literature.

He sang his trademark aria, "Ah, mes amis!" from Donizetti's "La Fille du régiment," with the expected virtuosity and so much more: a dreamy swoon on "l'amour," and a disarming incredulity and swagger as the would-be soldier Tonio pictures his glorious future. It was pure, dazzling joy and the ideal sendoff into the age of Flórez.

Juan Diego Flórez
Martin Bernheimer, Financial Times, 27 January 2004

Juan Diego Flórez must be the flavour of the month among vocal heroes. He's the current cover-boy for Opera News magazine, a mighty Rossini magnet at the Met and a hot property in the shrinking world of recordings.

Born in Peru and trained in America, he's just 31, dark and handsome, slender and charming. Alice Tully Hall, capacity 1,096, was sold out for his first New York recital on Sunday afternoon. Money in hand, a hardy horde braved the icy elements in quest of any unused tickets.

The fuss is easy to understand. Flórez commands a lyric tenor remarkable for its poise, range and flexibility. He specialises in challenges requiring sensuous grace. He exults in minute shading, and is undaunted by the longest of lines.

His art is both supple and subtle. Elegance doesn't always preclude bravado, however, and he appreciates the impact of a high C. In fact, he demonstrated that impact nine dazzling times with "Pour mon âme", the Pavarotti-esque showpiece from Donizetti's Fille du re{'}giment.

En route to this climax he surveyed sophisticated arias by Mozart, Bellini, Rossini and Gluck, offset by a couple of tawdry Peruvian tidbits courtesy of Andrés Sas and Rosa Mercedes Ayarza de Morales. As the first of five encores he mustered a sensitive "Una furtiva lagrima" from L'Elisir d'amore.

Under the circumstances it seems ungrateful to register reservations. Nevertheless a churl - ok, this churl - might note that Flórez occasionally swoons and croons to excess. He isn't particularly interested in dignified repose.

One wishes he could just stand still, and not sculpt every phrase in the air with his left hand. One wishes he could resist blurring the line that separates manner from mannerism. He's too talented, too smart to ignore the value of simplicity. Vincenzo Scalero [sic] provided mostly attentive, occasionally ponderous accompaniment.

Arias From Familiar Sources and a Bit of Peru
Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, 30 January 2004

The bitter winds on Sunday afternoon didn't deter a dozen or so music-lovers from milling outside Alice Tully Hall to try to get last-minute tickets for the sold-out recital by the Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez. He has become a genuine operatic superstar, the new prince of the Bel Canto repertory, a dashing, though small-framed, stage presence and a wonderfully appealing artist.

To no one's surprise his program consisted mostly of opera arias by his calling card composers  Bellini, Rossini, Gluck and Donizetti  with some Peruvian songs mixed in. The ovations were so ardent that Mr. Flórez sang six encores.

Though I'm as excited as any opera buff that Mr. Flórez, who is only 31, has arrived on the scene, I must offer some cautionary comments about his singing on Sunday. The good news is that he understands his own voice type. He is a classic tenore di grazia, a light lyric tenor with bright sound and the technical agility to toss off coloratura roulades comfortably, making him ideally suited to roles like Rossini's Count Almaviva and Prince Ramiro. Don't expect him to be singing even slightly heavier repertory, like Verdi's Duke of Mantua.

But a hallmark of tenore di grazia singing should be a smooth flow in midrange legato phrases. There were signs of vocal strain and patches of dryness in Mr. Flórez's legato singing: for example, during the long-spun lines of Mozart's "Misero! o Sogno." Interestingly, he had no trouble at all tossing off the big top notes.

He ended the program with an assured performance of Donizetti's stirring "Ah! Mes Amis," from "La Fille du Regiment," in which the tenor must leap up to a series of nine high C's. Still, it was somewhat worrisome that Mr. Flórez seemed almost relieved when those notes arrived. He needs to even out his voice and think about how to support and lift his softer lyrical singing as well.

Reservations aside, Mr. Flórez, accompanied by the pianist Vincenzo Scalera, sang with his customary expressivity, generosity and exuberance.

More at home in the opera house than on the recital stage, he looked endearingly awkward as he kept yanking at the collar of his tuxedo shirt and clinging to the lid of the piano as if it were a surrogate soprano in a love duet.

Mr. Flórez, who made his Metropolitan Opera debut two years ago, probably can't wait to return to the Met stage next month when he sings in Rossini's "Italiana in Algeri."

Andes Cute, Too!
Peter G. Davis, New York Magazine, Issue 16 February 2004

In a recital appearance worthy of a rock star, Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez woos and wows...

No, that wasn't a crowd lined up for a rock concert in front of Alice Tully Hall one freezing Sunday afternoon not long ago. Juan Diego Flórez, a 31-year-old tenor from Peru and about as hot as an opera singer can get these days, was giving his first New York recital, and everybody had to be there. Judging by the anguished pleas and bills of large denominations being waved in the air, the hall could have been sold out several times over. No doubt there will be similar scenes in front of the Metropolitan Opera this Friday night, when Flórez begins a run as Lindoro in the Met revival of Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri.

Flórez is a star on the global opera circuit, but, luckily for the Met and his New York fans, he has roots in the United Stateshe studied voice at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and has family down the coast in North Carolina. That and the vociferous adoration he receives whenever he steps onstage hereabouts are likely to keep the tenor a frequent visitor. The real worry about Flórez is that a young singer who combines a voice of such heady appeal and technical dazzle with the dark good looks and stage savvy of a pop idol will quickly tire of Rossini, Mozart, Donizetti, and Bellini and be lured into more profitable crossover ventures. Let's pray that never happens - at the moment, Flórez seems happy at what he is doing.

And he does it very well. There has been no shortage of agile tenors recently to handle the florid bel canto repertory, but none I've encountered offers this kind of total package. Flórez's accurate articulation of coloratura and the sheer fizz of his passagework, without loss of tonal quality or definition, take the breath away. The basic vocal quality has that tangy edge so typical of Latin voices, a tone that brightens considerably as he rises up to high C's and D's thrilling in their security and ringing finality. There is also an honesty and freshness about his musicianship that is immediately engaging, needing only a touch more color and expressive variety to give it finish. Most of his program was taken up with arias from the opera roles he sings so impressively, although the music that seemed to involve him most intensely was a selection of gorgeously phrased, folk-flavored Peruvian songs. Vincenzo Scalera gave a remarkably elegant account of accompaniments never meant to be heard on the piano, providing this big vocal talent with precisely the support he needed to shine.

Tenor overcomes off night
Paul Horsley, The Kansas City Star, 24 January 2004

Juan Diego Florez impresses despite 'mask' issues

Even a star of the Metropolitan Opera can have iffy nights.

Juan Diego Florez possesses a supple and pristine tenor voice, and on Thursday a sold-out audience at the Folly Theater got to hear a substantial dose of this 31-year-old's enormous capabilities.

His is one of the most nimble bel canto voices around, and the tenor dazzled with a program ranging from Mozart to Rossini and from Gluck to popular Peruvian composers.

If the Lima-born tenor was not in the best of voice through the evening  even stopping at one point to complain about how dry his "mask" was  he provided an entertaining evening like a seasoned professional, even singing two gutsy encores. (Mask is a term singers use for the "facial" part of the vocal equipment, especially the nasal passages.)

But first things first: Florez possesses a remarkably natural sound in this most unnatural of ranges, and he has even conquered some of the nasality that marked his singing at last year's Harriman concert (his United States recital debut).

He was most compelling vocally where he was most involved dramatically, as in Mozart's "Misero! O sogno," a concert aria with a fierce narrative line through it.

He also showed a strong feel for the idiom of Donizetti's "Allegro io son" (from "Rita"), with utter flexibility of line, long-breathed phrases and pinging high notes. His sparkling-clean passagework made Gluck's "L'espoir renait dans mon ame" into a breathless surprise, and the way he revisited each utterance of the name "Eurydice" in "J'ai perdu" from the same opera built tension throughout.

Best of all were Florez's renderings of Andres Sas' "El pajonal" and De Morales' "Malhaya" and "Hasta la guitarra llora," intoxicating popular songs in Spanish that brought out the most comfortable singing of the evening. The tenor seemed relaxed in the tavern vein, and the voice responded with lush ease of sonority. Vincenzo Scalera was a supportive pianist throughout.

There were less successful aspects, though, like momentary pitch problems in his Bellini ariettas ("Ma rendi pur contento" and "Vanne, o rosa fortunata"), a sort of blanched sound in parts of Rossini's "Che ascolto!" and a rare harsh tone in the upper register toward the end of "J'ai perdu."

Yet it was difficult not to like the frothy, sumptuous "Bella enamorada" from the zarzuela "El ultimo romantico," brought off with the soul of a true romantic. And the final "Ah, il piu' lieto," from "The Barber of Seville"  while not quite up to the fleet standard we know him capable of  suggested his mastery in this fabulously virtuosic idiom.

Juan Diego Florez
Reviewed: Thursday, Jan. 22
Where: The Folly Theater
Attendance: 1,100 (approx.)
Presented by: Harriman Arts Program of William Jewell College.


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