Recital, Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver, 13 March 2004
                                                                              Vancouver Recital Society flyer

Singing alongside giants, The Ubyssey (University of British Columbia), 16 March 2004
Juan Diego Florez, Vancouver Review, March 2004


Singing alongside giants
Regina Yung, The Ubyssey (University of British Columbia), 16 March 2004

A well-looking young man in impeccable white tie and tails, with shoes buffed bright enough to blind, would attract attention anywhere he chose to walk. If the young man in question were to walk across the Orpheum stage, open his mouth and proceed to rock his audience from the mezzanine to the balcony; well, you would have nothing less than tenor Juan Diego Florez.

Dark-haired and not over-tall, the young tenor from Peru has been widely hailed as the next big thing, the new Domingo/Pavarotti/Carreras. While his voice does hold the promise of true magnificence, on this night Florez's tone was too closed-up to deliver 100 per cent. However, his precision, charisma and sheer showmanship carried the night.

Florez began the evening at half-voice. Despite any lingering opening-song butterflies, only the occasional left-handed tug at his white vest betrayed any physical reaction to the packed house. He is a very physical singer, alternately rising to his toes and relaxing into the grand piano's curve as the song's tensions ebbed through him.

Florez's unflappable accompanist, Martin Katz, had an admirable ability to match phrasing and feeling, and was almost telepathic on the slowdowns. Katz's fluid technique allowed the pianist to make a joyous feast of both Mozart's scintillating piano work and Beethoven's trademark passion. "The Rossini," a watermark for any young singer, went well. Florez's tone had warmed enough to allow him flexibility and ease as he went for the high noteshe did look rather proud of himself after an admittedly lovely high 'B.'

By the intermission, it was clear that Florez's audience loved him. It was also clear that the narrowness in his tenor was simply a feature of his youthful voice that night, although it may also have been lingering nerves.

The return to the music brought us to his native Peru, with songs by Sas and Morales loosening his tight tone. Morales's "Hasta la guitarra llora" was a moody, lyrical success.

Donizetti's "Allegro io son," which ended the night, was a piece of froth that nonetheless gave the night's best view of what Florez might someday accomplish. The song celebrates the glee of newfound bachelorhood, and Florez hit everything right, from the pitch (which was never an issue) to the feeling of giddy freedom. He even relaxed enough to bring a playful finger up to hold back eager, premature applause. His arms moved over the phrases, legs bending and sweeping; Florez was all but dancing along the Steinway.

They called Florez and Katz (whom Florez never forgot to acknowledge) back for about seven curtains and three encores, all of which were a delight. It would seem that being sure of his audience made a big difference to Florez's performance. And if his voice alone did not quite mark him the fourth tenor that evening, his charisma vaulted him into those heights regardless. As for the voice, it will be only a matter of time.

Schubert - Guarda che bianca luna
Beethoven - Adelaide
Mozart - Ridente la calma; Si spande al sole in faccia (da Re pastore)
Rossini - Deh tu m'assisti amore (da Signor Bruschino); Che ascolto, ahime (da Otello)
Andrés Sas - El Pajonal
Rosa Mercedes Ayarza de Morales - Malhaya; Hasta la guitarra llora
Gabriel Fauré - Après un reve
Jules Massenet - Ouvre tes yeux bleus
Georges Bizet - Ouvre ton coeur
Donizetti -  Allegro io sono (da Rita)

Juan Diego Florez
June Heywood, Vancouver Review, March 2004

Superlatives abound for the movie-star-handsome 31 year-old Peruvian lyric tenor, Juan Diego Florez.

Britain's Daily Telegraph enthuses, "For sheer (vocal) acrobatic skills and thrills, he is without doubt numero uno". Mr Florez demonstrated his skills and thrills in an evening of variety from Schubert, Beethoven, Mozart, Rossini, Massenet, Bizet, Donizetti, and Sas.

In Gioachino Rossini's Che ascolto! (What do I hear!) from Othello (Rodrigo's Aria, Mr Florez held his breath throughout extraordinary long phrases that ran up and down the scale. His a capella high C was effortless. As he sang in Italian, his body language tempted all to defy him. The angry words in English were, "With my very own hand I shall know how to punish the betrayer".

The liner notes declare that when it was discovered the former rock band singer, "Was in possession of a voice so pure, agile, and uniqueit would help revive neglected repertoire" Mr Florez began his operatic training. This evening, he demonstrated his vocal purity in Franz Schubert's Guarda che bianca luna! (See how White the moon is!). In the melancholy traditional Peruvian folk song, El Pajonal (The Straw Farmer) by Andre Sas, Florez captured the tone of a lullaby and another effortless high C.

Joining Mr Florez was "Martin Katz (who) must surely be considered the dean of collaborative pianists", writes the Los Angeles Times. Teacher, conductor, and accompanist he has been one of the world's most sought after on-stage partners for vocal soloists for more than thirty-five years.

Mr Katz' piano skills were a perfect accompaniment to the star's vocal acrobatics. Never taking the limelight, with his unique touch he matched and complemented Mr Florez' voice.

Between each set, Mr Florez and Mr Katz left the stage. These breaks were too long as they broke the rhythm of the performance. Surprisingly, for a man with a tremendous tenor, Mr Florez' speaking voice carried only a few rows forward. Yet, his sense of humour shone through when someone clapped too soon and he indicated with a theatrical hand and facial gesture, "Not yet". He gestured again at the end of the performance by placing his hand on his heard then on to his third eye to say, "Thank you from my heart and soul".

When three encores followed four standing ovations, Mr Florez' voice was as fresh at the end of the program as it had been at the start. His high C's just as pure.

This young bel cantor has a golden future.


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