JUAN DIEGO FLOREZ
ROSSINI/ BELLINI/ VERDI/ DONIZETTI (10-17-07)
By Lawrence Budmen
Miami’s Carnival Center celebrated its first anniversary in a grand manner on October 17. Elaborate gala dinners and disco parties bookended the evening but the main event was a spectacular concert by Juan Diego Florez at the Knight Concert Hall. This young Peruvian born opera star is a lyric tenor of the most extraordinarily gifted variety. His voice – alternately dulcet and ringing – heralds a new operatic golden age. Despite the recent passing of Luciano Pavarotti, the world is alive with great tenor voices. Among his colleagues (including Salvatore Licitra, Rolando Villazon, Jose Cura, Marcello Alvarez, and Marcello Giordani), Florez holds a unique place. Superbly trained, artistically pliant lyric tenor voices are rare. This young artist knows how to deliver the goods with an instrument that may attain legendary status.
A Rossini specialist, Florez revels in the elaborate, seemingly impossible cascades of coloratura ornamentation that Rossini concocted for the legendary tenor Rubini. With his patrician vocal demeanor and sterling musicianship, Florez sailed through an all Rossini first half with combustible resonance. His opening aria from Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra (an 1815 Rossini opera that was considered lost until the score was rediscovered two decades ago by the conductor and musicologist Richard Bonygne) featured a stunning high C that set the rafters ringing. His luminous delivery of Malcolm’s high flying aria from Guglielmo Tell pulsated with surging, unforced lyrical line. In Count Almaviva’s rarely performed final aria – Cessa di piu resistere – from The Barber of Seville, Florez’s effortless, transparent vocalism exuded silvery tonal hues and rapid fire coloratura without strain. This dazzling showpiece was Rossini’s recasting of the finale of La Cenerentola (sung by a mezzo-soprano) for tenor, another showpiece for Rubini. Few singers will dare venture this version because of its vocal complexity. It was a pleasure to hear it sung with such assured, stylish artistry.
After the vocal acrobatics of Rossini, Florez turned to the heart of Italian bel canto for the concert’s second half. An engaging aria from Bellini’s 1826 opera Bianca e Fernando was sung with beguiling, sensuous passion. Trying out the role of the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s Rigoletto, Florez offered an impish Questa o quella and a gorgeous Parmi veder with beautiful legato line and flawless, elegantly spun diminuendo. Adding the tenor showpiece from Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment to the program (the aria with nine high C’s that made Pavarotti a star), Florez’s laser like projection of the chart topping high notes was riveting and viscerally thrilling. This is the kind of tenor singing that was once practically extinct. Florez is that extraordinary!
In response to repeated cheers and standing ovations, Florez was generous with encores. La donna mobile (from Rigoletto) was refreshingly elegant and unforced. Florez’s seamless, exquisite version of Una furtiva lagrima (from Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore) was meltingly beautiful. Florez’s lyrical take on Augustin Lara’s Granada turned this overworked standard into pure vocal gold.
Christopher Franklin, a gifted American conductor with a strong European operatic resume, offered skillfully gauged accompaniments and had Orchestra Miami (an ensemble of former Florida Philharmonic players and University of Miami Frost School of Music faculty members) stepping light and lively in a series of overtures by Rossini and Bellini. Fine wind articulation in the Overture to La Cenerentola and incisive strings in the Sinfonia from Norma were particularly distinguished.
Juan Diego Florez’s aristocratic artistry and remarkable vocalism would be notable in any season. This superbly endowed tenor is destined to become an operatic legend! He offered an evening of magnificent singing that will long be remembered. What better way to celebrate the anniversary of Miami’s glittering new arts complex!