Juan Diego Flórez – Bel Canto Spectacular

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Donizetti
La figlia del reggimento – Amici miei, che allegro giorno
Bellini
I puritani – Finì … me lassa! … Vieni fra queste braccia
Donizetti
La Favorite – La maîtresse du roi! … Ange si pur
L’elisir d’amore – Venti scudi?; Una furtiva lagrima
Linda di Chamonix – Linda! Linda! … Da quel dì che t’incontrai; Linda! Si ritirò … Se tanto in ira agl’uomini
Rossini
Il viaggio a Reims – Di che son reo? … D’alma celeste
Donizetti
Lucrezia Borgia – Partir degg’io … T’amo qual s’ama un angelo
Rossini
Otello – Ah vieni, nel tuo sangue vendicherò le offese

Juan Diego Flórez (tenor)

Anna Netrebko (soprano), Plácido Domingo (tenor), Patrizia Ciofi (soprano), Daniela Barcellona (mezzo-soprano) & Mariusz Kwiecien (baritone)

Cor de la Generalitat Valenciana

Orquestra de la Communitat Valenciana
Daniel Oren

Recorded November 2007 in Palau de les Arts “Reina Sofia” Valencia


Reviewed by: Richard Nicholson

Reviewed: June 2008
CD No: DECCA 478 0315
Duration: 78 minutes

tenore di grazia of ravishing sweetness throughout its range. Flórez has solved the problem of the passaggio: one has to listen very carefully to hear the slightest change of quality around E and F. The high notes are approached with easy athleticism, fioriture dispatched with fluency and agility.

In the first fifteen years of complete opera recordings on LP, record companies found it difficult to match suitable singers to bel canto operas. Singers such as Nicola Monti, Juan Oncina and Cesare Valletti were cast, without having all the requisite qualities, with a resulting mismatch between soprano and tenor. The best in terms of vocal agility was probably Luigi Alva. (Oncina went on to attempt heavier roles without success.)

The renaissance of Italian operas of the primo ottocento began long before Flórez appeared on the scene. One obvious turning-point came at Covent Garden’s revival of “La fille du régiment” in 1966, when Luciano Pavarotti successfully delivered the legendary high C-rich showpiece for Tonie. How extraordinary that an aria that caused him to be hailed as a sensational and singular artist is now sung by dozens of tenors. While the world’s opera-stages are short of Verdi sopranos and baritones, they currently enjoy a surfeit of Rossini tenors; Flórez has shot to the top of that particular tree with a combination of consistent vocal beauty and musical skills which even estimable rivals such as Rockwell Blake, Bruce Ford and Gregory Kunde just fail to equal.

coloratura elements, such as the cadenza of the duet, her contribution is vocally pale in what is basically generic music.

The comic duet between Count and Marquise from that hilarious romp “Il viaggio a Reims” is a contest between tenor and mezzo-soprano in which the weapons are complex decorations. This is Rossini as self-parodist. Here Flórez could hardly have a more formidable rival among current singers in Daniela Barcellona. She is gloriously bombastic but he holds his own. The piece, whose final section consists imaginatively of over-lapping phrases, should be heard more often: it has great entertainment value outside its original context.

The Belcore in the “recruitment” duet from “L’elisir d’amore” is Marius Kwiecien, an established Don Giovanni, who plays the character as less supercilious than normally heard. He also underplays the comic element and the duet rather jogs along, with only the addition of a gratuitous top C by Flórez to offer much drama.

‘Una furtiva lagrima’ provided the title for an earlier recital disc. Flórez has re-studied the aria; applying some decorations (presumably of his own invention) in the second verse and in the cadenza. This is a case where I miss the head-voice with which some distinguished tenors attack the beginnings of phrases. He does supply it in the solo from “Linda di Chamonix”, which he ends with what is a piece of vocal magic if it is genuine and not the result of some engineering interference, a diminuendo on the final note.

Do I have any reservations about this singer? I did find a general lack of soft singing something of a frustration, while the unremitting brightness of tone is not immune from monotony. The aria from “Lucrezia Borgia”, passionately-voiced though it is, is particularly brassy. Following the music on this release with the scores also reveals that numerous dynamic and accent markings go unobserved.

Nevertheless, the real triumph of this issue is the aria from the last act of “La Favorite”, sung in the original French. Flórez enunciates clearly as usual and phrases broadly, making absolute sense of the A-B-A-plus-coda structure; at last he produces some unequivocally soft singing in the reprise before a lacerating top D of despair.

Texts and translations are provided, the latter in three languages but the “bonus track” has neither. This is the first section of the trio from Act Two of Rossini’s “Otello” between Otello and Rodrigo, before the entry of Desdemona. The engagement of Plácido Domingo as Otello no doubt has marketing motives behind it, but buyers should beware: the veteran tenor is muffled of tone and ungainly in the divisions. This music does not suit him at this stage of his career one bit, if it ever did.

Throughout, Daniel Oren finds the right idiom for his forces from Valencia. Choral work is well characterised and orchestral playing suitably light and frothy in Donizetti, while the band provides a warm bed of sound for Fernand’s reverie and jubilation for Arturo and Elvira.

Whither next for Florez’s career? It would be surprising if he stayed in his current Fach. The light lyric repertoire beckons; indeed he has already sung the Duke in “Rigoletto”. The next natural step would be Alfredo in “La traviata” and, if he aspires to widen his range of styles, then Werther perhaps. It will be interesting to see if he can bring something truly distinctive to that repertoire; in recent years he has been the gifted standard-bearer for early-nineteenth-century Italian opera in the Golden Age of its revival. This issue may represent its high-water mark and is certainly not to be missed.

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