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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Gioachino ROSSINI - Arias.
Ah, dov’è, dov’è, il cimento - Semiramide
Che ascolto! - Otello
Cessa di piŭ resistere - Il barbiere di Siviglia
Vieni fra queste braccia - La gazza ladra
Concedi, amor pietoso - L’Italiana in Algeri
S’intessano agli aliori / Terra amica - Zelmira
Oh fiamma soave - La donna del lago
Si, ritrovarla io giuro - La Cenerentola
Juan Diego Flórez (tenor)
Coro Sinfonico di Milano Giuseppe Verdi/Romano Gandolfi Chorus Master)
Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi/Riccardo Chailly
Recording: Auditorium di Milano, May and August 2001.
DECCA UNIVERSAL CLASSICS 470 024-2 [59.09]


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Aieeeeee! One has to say that this disc will not be to everyone’s taste; indeed, much as I love the sound of the tenor voice, I cannot stand more than two tracks of this particular variety of it at a time. That being a given, this ambitious solo debut recital must be about as exciting a recording as any opera lover could imagine. Rossini tenors are very thin on the ground at present, with only Bruce Ford springing to mind as a singer whose high C does not make one wince, so it is especially remarkable to be able to witness the emergence of this young Peruvian, who, to put it simply, has it all. He is that very rare bird, a tenor who not only makes all the notes but does so with power to spare, and who sings not only with fluency but with shapely phrasing and expression; just as a bonus, he is an extremely graceful stage actor and very handsome.

This all–Rossini recital is, in itself, a daring concept, since much of the music is, for obvious reasons, not a central part of the repertoire, so it is laudable that Flórez chose to make this his calling card rather than a collection of lollipops. The selection of arias is also very well placed; it was a stroke of genius to begin with Idreno’s Act 1 aria from Semiramide, since the very first line here, ‘Ah, dov’è, dov’è il cimento’ allows Flórez to display at once a tenderness in the phrasing, a mastery of tone colour, which much of the rest of the music only encourages in short passages; the way in which he caresses the word ‘dov’è,’ and the subtle variations he brings to its enunciation, would be enough to mark him out as a singer of rare gifts – and we are still on the first line. The rest of the aria is brilliantly sung, high notes tossed off with real bravura, but it is almost as nothing compared to the real gems of the disc, ‘Concedi, amor pietoso’ from L’Italiana in Algeri, and ‘Cessa di piŭ resistere,’ the often – omitted Act 2 aria from ‘Il barbiere di Siviglia.’

‘Concedi, amor pietoso’ is not the most dazzlingly showy extract on the disc, but it is nevertheless a superb vehicle for this singer’s gifts; it demands exceptional clarity of articulation, consummate breath control and a sense of tender awe which must always avoid mawkishness; Flórez achieves all this and more, his singing of ‘Voce che tenera mi parli al core’ simply taking one’s breath away with its mellifluousness and complete accuracy. That last term is the real key to his special quality; tenderness, fluency, dazzling showmanship and ability to reach spectacular high notes are all very well but they don’t have much real impact unless the purely musical values are also sound, and with this singer, they are just that. ‘Cessa di piŭ resistere’ demonstrates this triumphantly; he delivers the taxing coloratura not only with verve and with a wonderful ringing quality in the sound, but also with complete accuracy, with nothing skimped, glossed over, aspirated or ducked – every note is there, placed with total security and glowing, pin-point precision. There is nothing dry about this singing, however, and the dramatic qualities of the voice are heard to even more advantage in his collaboration with the chorus in the aria from Zelmira, where the singing unites passion, tenderness and agility to a remarkable degree.

A disc composed entirely of Rossini arias, only two of them well known, is not of automatic appeal to many opera-lovers, but this one is something special, since it introduces a young singer who, in John Steane’s words, achieves ‘the union of scrupulous means and brilliantly effective ends.’ The Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano, its associated chorus and Chailly all give him the most musical, sympathetic and lively support imaginable; this is a recording to treasure.

Melanie Eskenazi


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