Concert, Royal Festival Hall London, 18 May 2002
Philharmonia Orchestra, Conductor: Riccardo Frizza

Juan Diego Flórez, Seen & Heard
Juan Diego Flórez, The Times
Juan Diego Florez: Royal Festival Hall, The Oxford Student
Juan Diego Flórez
Melanie Eskenazi, Seen & Heard, 20 May 2002

Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti: Juan Diego Flórez, Philharmonia Orchestra,
Riccardo Frizza, Royal Festival Hall, May 18th 2002

It's been quite a month for voices. For me, it began with John Mark
Ainsley's Orfeo, then there were two Matthias Goerne recitals followed
closely by Quasthoff, and last night this display of bel canto fireworks
from a singer who is bound to become more of a household name than any
of the aforementioned. 'Very few press tickets, tonight' I was told at
the desk, and this I found regrettable, since those who did not attend
missed out on a remarkable concert, greeted with an almost - full
standing ovation in which only a few curmudgeons such as myself and John
Steane did not participate. Nevertheless, both he and I were mightily
impressed by this tenor, still only 28 and already so complete an

One had the sense that Juan Diego Flórez is filling an aching void, that
left after Pavarotti, Domingo and their ilk, and one which cannot be
filled by the likes of Russell Watson. Florez is the genuine article; he
has a voice which is a God - given instrument of sublime beauty, his
technique is astonishingly secure for so early a stage in his career,
his particular vocal agility lends itself to brilliant show-stopping
arias with stunning effect, he has a beguiling stage manner and noble
bearing, is exceptionally handsome, and, most of all, he sings with
wonderful taste and accuracy, phrasing the music with a refinement all
to rarely heard in this, or indeed any other repertoire.

The programme was carefully designed to display all his talents to the
greatest effect, with the arias sandwiched between performances of
various overtures by the orchestra; it was a pity that they were
condemned to perform only these lollipops, since the quality of the
playing was so fine - however, it was obvious that most of the audience
were just dozing through the instrumental pieces until their hero took
the stage again. He began with 'Vieni fra queste braccia' from 'La Gazza
ladra,' a most gracefully appropriate beginning to any recital (not that
many other singers would be too eager to contemplate it) with its
welcoming invitation and its reassuring melodic style. Apart from one or
two moments when his line faded just a little at the centre, this was a
wonderful performance; the rapid divisions held no terrors for him, he
phrased the lines with the elegance and good taste which are the
hallmarks of his singing, and conveyed the import of the words,
especially at moments such as 'Tu m' inspirar.' with real dramatic

'Deh tu m'assisti amore' was sung with similar grace and style, the
slow, quiet lines phrased with unaffected emotion and clarity, and it
called forth another storm of applause from an already - besotted
audience. However, even this paled by comparison with his three
absolutely stunning pieces in the second half, 'E Serbato.' from Bellini
's 'I Capuleti e I Montechi,' 'Una Furtiva Lagrima,' and the brilliant
final 'Ah! Mes Amis, Quel Jour de fete' from 'La Fille du Regiment.' The
Bellini was a model of bel canto style, its fluency, beauty of tone and
perfection of diction leaving nothing to be desired, with the diminuendo
at 'Ogni della Gioia del mio cor..' as finely achieved as anything I
have ever heard either on disc or in concert.

'Una Furtiva Lagrima,' the best - known aria in the programme, was
simply stunning; if Caruso sang it better then I would be surprised.
Florez gave it a freshness, a forwardness in the tone, an eagerness
without overstatement, such as I have never before heard, and his
elegance of phrasing and fluid legato line were just perfection - it's
one thing to phrase 'Una furtive lagrima' with elegance, quite another
to bring the same finesse and emotion to' Negl'occhi suoi spunto,' but
he did, and more. This was singing of absolute technical mastery, of
dramatic conviction and above all, wonderful taste and accuracy;
'Bravissimo!' yelled someone even before the music had ended, and I
would defy anyone to suggest that such a reaction was undeserved.

Florez' stunning technique was finally displayed in all its glory in
'Ah! Mes Amis,' and you could not wish for a more rousing finale; he
made the top Cs right in the middle without apparent strain, whilst
still phrasing the music with elegance and grace, his dazzling, bright
high notes not mere vehicles of display but a part of the whole in which
sweetness, tenderness and perfect diction were also much in evidence;
his French is wonderful, too, with a real bite to the enunciation. His
singing was greeted with a standing ovation and tumultuous cheering, and
he rewarded this with three encores, the final Rossini aria revealing
over and over again the diamond - like brilliance of his tone, the
seamless accuracy of his coloratura and the elegance of his phrasing. A
truly exciting evening.

Juan Diego Flórez
Hilary Finch, The Times, 20 May 2002

Sequins and jewels flashed as what appeared to be the entire expat
glitterati of South America were joined for Juan Diego Flórez's concert
by every canary fancier in the land not already lured by Anna Bolena
next door at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. This was bel canto night on the
South Bank.

If it was Donizetti you were after, then the Festival Hall also offered
arias from L'elisir d'amore and La Fille du Régiment. But it probably
didn't matter too much exactly what was sung: on Saturday night, the
singer was all.

Flórez, the Peruvian tenor, is every opera house and record company's
dream: Latinate good looks, an athletic and near-faultless technique
and, it seems, total reliability in Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini. And
his unaffected manner and sense of style make him as sought after on the
concert platform as on the stage.

So the applause was long and loud before even a note was uttered. The
overture to The Thieving Magpie revved up the Philharmonia's engines and
the audience's adrenalin for Flórez's entry.

And, as the enamoured Giannetto, he taught the language of love to his
Ninetta with convincing ardour if, as yet, rather too many textbook

When Riccardo Frizza, the evening's conductor, had given the orchestra a
still longer Rossinian run with the ballet sequence from Mosè, Flórez
returned, less palpably nervous, for an aria from Signor Bruschino, in
which exquisitely tapered phrases seemed to have no end and no
beginning. And then came Ah, come mai non senti - the aria from Rossini'
s Otello which ends with that Cat Duet of a coda, deliciously cued in by
the clarinet.

Armfuls of ardour, and as many very loud and very high notes as you
could wish for; but nothing yet to send the requisite shiver down the
spine. We had to wait until the encores, and a group of Peruvian songs,
for that truly spontaneous combustion of word, music and human response
which must be virtuosity's true raison d'être.

Juan Diego Florez: Royal Festival Hall
Edmund Sutton, The Oxford Student, 23rd May 2002

One could have been forgiven for thinking that the entire Peruvian
population in the UK had turned out to witness the South Bank debut of
their rising star at the Royal Festival Hall on Saturday evening. In a
programme of exclusively bel canto arias and songs, Juan Diego Florez
gave an astonishing performance, the quality of which should mark him
out as the world's finest tenor, if the commercial world has any sense.
The Philharmonia Orchestra was equal to the task of accompanying him,
under the baton of the young - and very impressive - Riccardo Frizza,
performing a series of Rossini and Donizetti overtures as interludes to
the hugely taxing arias. Florez' resonant and bright timbre is well
suited to the concert hall, and his style is even better suited to live
performance. Donizetti's "Una Furtiva Lagrima" is a standard classic
from the tenor repertoire, but I have not heard a more movingly
mellifluous or delicately controlled performance by any of the other
great tenors. Rapturous shouts and applause filled the Hall like they
would for Pavarotti. His final offering was the virtuosic aria from
Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment. It is notorious for having nine
super-top Cs - perfect then for Florez' athletic technique and power,
and so he proved. The audience went wild, and Florez returned for three
encores, the last of which unbelievably was the section of the final
aria, with those nine top-Cs ringing out again. The audience simply
loved it - his effortless technique, daring repertoire, power, and a
stylish swagger, which would be better-suited to a Spanish matador.


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