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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Juan Diego Flórez - The Tenor
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
1. La donna è mobile (Rigoletto) [2.25]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
2. Avete torto! … Firenze è come un albero fiorito (Gianni Schicchi) [3.17]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
3. Una furtiva lagrima (L’elisir d’amore) [4.42]
4. Ah! Mes mais, quel jour de fête! … Pour mon âme quel destin! (La Fille du régiment) [7.00]
Joseph LACALLE (1859-1937)
5. Amapola. arr. Guinovart.
Daniel Binelli (bandoneon); David Galvez (guitar); Michael Shih, Adriana Voirin DeCosta (violin); Laura Bruton (viola); Karen Basrak (cello); William Clay ((bass); Shields-Collins Bray (piano) [4.24]
Augustin LARA (1896–1970)
6. Granada. arr. Guinovart.
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra/Miguel Harth-Bedoya [4.16]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
7. Che ascolto! (Otello) [6.43]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
8. Se di regnar sei vago (Mitridate) [4.15]
Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
9. Vieni fra queste braccia (La gazza ladra) [5.10]
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)
10. J’ai perdu mon Euridice (Orphée et Euridice) [4.33]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
11. La speranza più soave già quest’alma lusingava (Semiramide) [7.42]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
12. Pietoso al lungo pianto alfin m’arride amore … Deh! Lasciate a un’alma amante (Un giorno di regno) [6.30]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
13. Allegro io son ( Rita) [3.43]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
14. Qui tollis. [6.02]
Raffaella Ciapponi (clarinet obbligato)
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
15. Si, ritrovarla io giuro (La Cenerentola) [6.04]
Juan Diego Flórez (tenor)
Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro di Milano Giuseppe Verdi /Carlo Rizzi (1, 2, 10-12); Riccardo Frizza (3, 4, 13) Riccardo Chailly (7, 9, 14, 15)

rec. Auditorio di Milano, Milan. July 2000 (14); May, August 2001 (7, 9, 15) September, November 2002 (3, 4, 13); March 2003 (1, 2, 10-12); Salle del Castillo, Vevey, May 1998 (8); Landreth Auditorium, Fort Worth, Texas,
September-October 2004 (5, 6). DDD
DECCA 475 8418 [77.42]

 


Confession time: I am a Flórez aficionado. I managed to see him twice at Covent Garden in La sonnambula (2002) and then last month (January 2007) in La Fille du régiment. Flórez in operatic performance is invariably worth every effort and every penny/euro/pound/mortgage as part of a team telling a story. But uninterrupted Flórez for over and hour? Maybe not for me: but if you like undiluted full strength Flórez then this is for you.

The accompanying leaflet tells us that this is the fifth such Flórez disc. Therefore there must be a market, which then raises the question: market for what? That is perhaps a little unkind but the fact is that all but three tracks on this disc (5, 8, 14) have appeared on previous single releases.

Pavarotti wore the mantle of King of the High Cs unassumingly. Listen to the 1968 Decca CD recording (414 520-2); or the compilation of 2001 in The Singers series (467 920-2). Having assumed the mantle, Flórez appears to wear it even more lightly. His tone is lighter and although obviously not apparent on a CD he is physically lighter on his feet, tripping about the stage like a young gazelle. As at February 2007, when this is being written, there is really no-one who can compete with his mid-note and long held high C security, or indeed with his high tessitura in bel canto repertoire. And sure enough this disc demonstrates these qualities very clearly indeed.

Curiously, instead of starting with a bel canto stand-by to set the disc style, he turns to one of Verdi’s most popular melodies but one which is usually sung by a dramatic tenor – or certainly one with more heft. That said Flórez hits notes with a clarity that always sounds fresh. That freshness is apposite for the Duke’s view of the fickleness of women but misses the undercurrent of the debauched Duke. That undercurrent is also missed at the end of the aria. Flórez takes the last note up an octave to a high B as if in celebration – certainly a typically high note on which Flórez ends an aria. Whereas in the opera, the aria ends on middle B prior to the entry of the murderous Sparafucile – a more sombre conclusion.

Next we have Rinuccio, in love with Gianni Schicchi’s daughter, trying to persuade his family to accept the services of that crafty countryman. This is persuasive Puccini with a between-verse captivating orchestral snatch of O mio babbino caro. Interestingly Flórez puts more drama than one might expect into his persuasive endeavours and his admonishment of the relatives.

The next two tracks, both from works by Donizetti are arias for lovesick swains. The first for Nemorino with his secret tear and love for Adina; opening with its familiar haunting refrain. Here we have a less ebullient Flórez, but conveying vocally Nemorino’s determination. Whilst there are still the ringing highs this aria is much better for the vocal variations.

Tonio, in gaining permission from the regiment to marry ‘their daughter’, is quite irrepressible and Flórez is ideal for the role. The music is exciting and Flórez is exhilarated and exhilarating. The concluding joy in Pour mon âme, lying at the higher end of any tenor’s range and with its celebratory successive high Cs is almost a Flórez calling card, not deposing Pavarotti but presenting a somewhat different style and tone. Here is a sharper timbre, and a light touch with the same ringing accuracy and security.

The next two tracks are not my personal favourites. As Italian bel canto tenors record Neapolitan songs, so it must be comparable that Peruvian Flórez should look to the Spanish language. Both these songs were recorded in Texas. Both are familiar tunes and if you want to ‘sing along with Juan’, then fine. Personally the former should be left to the popular Jimmy Dorsey recording. In both, Flórez’s crisp timbre seems flattened or smoothed and in the latter recording is not helped by an almost frenetically competitive orchestra.

Onto the almost overpowering tear-jerking aria and cabaletta for Rodrigo sung immediately after being told that his beloved Desdemona is already married. This track demonstrates all Flórez’s strengths but also shows his lack of power in the lower reaches of his range. There is mid-note-hitting security in some quickly-paced difficult runs. The word ‘coloratura’ is almost invariably used to describe sopranos. The logic of which has always escaped me. Here is faultless florid singing for which ‘coloratura’, is the only word, and tremendous it is too.

Next is a young Mozart work, with Marzio’s only aria in this opera. Here the rapid runs are only manageable with repeated ‘ah’s or the like; the runs and leaps showing yet again remarkable vocal focus and agility. Mozart is new to the group of Flórez single discs and is the more enjoyable for that – particularly with the playing by Les Talens Lyriques.

Rossini’s aria and cavatina for the returning Gianetto does not really add to the vocal opportunities. Accepting the aria as “…insipid and commonplace in the extreme…” (Stendhal: 267), Flórez rescues it from the severity of that condemnation but no more.

Orphée et Euridice is manifestly the French version of Gluck’s opera. Whilst familiarity suggests that we might expect to hear a counter-tenor or a mezzo, there is no logical reason why Flórez should not sing this quite beautiful aria. Orphée has disobeyed the dictum not to look back at his wife whom he was leading back to earth and as a result she has died - again. Flórez deploys refreshingly stronger dynamics than hitherto; he makes clear Orphée’s self-criticism for his loss – even if there is the occasional question mark against pronunciation.

Semiramide takes us back to Rossini, if a not particularly memorable opera or extract. Again Flórez evinces strong dynamics in some slow coloratura and later with notable orchestral support he manages to inject excitement into the music.

Un giorno di regno is the early Verdi opera that got the bird – not the worm – at the first performance and has been little seen since. Verdi’s attempt at ‘Rossini humour’ failed as this extract demonstrates musically. Flórez comes to the rescue as best he can but cannot save the first part from being dull. The second part, with suggestions of Rossinian crescendos, is little better.

Then there is reliable Rita (Donizetti’s one act opera) with its very light touch aria for Beppe which Flórez exploits deliciously with successive mid-note leaps forte, smooth runs and the ever reliable ‘tra-la-la’-ing. Curiously the Verdi of Qui tollis is again not the most scintillating – particularly for Flórez whose voice is not the strongest in the lower regions of his register.

As you would expect the final track shows the Flórez voice at its best; ringing highs, secure runs, lots of coloratura and all delivered with that beguiling youthful vocal confidence that is his hall-mark.

The only real disappointment with this disc is the accompanying leaflet. No libretto so no translation, just an almost sycophantic potted history of Flórez. And what a pity the front photo shows an absence of a razor whereas the smooth handsome Flórez appears on three photos within.

Robert McKechnie

 


 


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