Top positive review
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a distinguished and thrilling recital
on 14 December 2014
Juan Diego Florez has been the premier Rossini tenor for while now -- a man able to negotiate the florid passages of Rossini with expressiveness, musicianship, and security. If he stopped singing tomorrow, his place in singing history would be pretty secure, I believe. Here he is trying his hand at more lyrical material from the later 19th Century French repertoire. It's pretty much a total success; in fact, I like the lyrical material better than I do the obvious display pieces, and I don't think there's any doubt that should he go on to tackle, say, Werther, Fernand, and Romeo he would be very effective. My only reservation is that his voice lacks the warmth and roundness of Vargas, Bjoerling, and company, but he can't do anything about that. His voice is what it is, and he has total mastery of it. My standard for the Romance in "La Dame Blanche" ("Viens, gentille dame") has been Wunderlich's account (sung in German). It's beautiful and it's thrilling -- but Florez doesn't simplify the florid writing (which Wunderlich does a bit), and he paces the sections with nice attention to the text and the mood. And his attack on the high notes is all you could ask for. Likewise, in "Au Mont Ida," I had always favored the young Bjoerling's version in Swedish -- an amazing piece of singing. Florez (or perhaps Roberto Abbado, the fine conductor here) paces the piece with more variety, and Florez's account is just wonderful too. In Romeo's big aria. "Ah, Leve-too, soleil . .," Florez is slower than Vargas, and that works expressively (sounding more rapt than ardent -- both viable options), and he rises thrillingly to the climax. The Serenade from Bizet's "La Jolie Fille de Perth" is a lovely piece I hadn't heard before, and it's really nice here. Closer to the standard repertory, Florez's Fernand from "La Favorite" is done powerfully (it's the duet with Balthasar from Act 1), and his Werther is just superb. Florez is a great singer -- the Jonas Kaufmann of the lighter-voiced set -- and he sounds totally committed dramatically to all the selections here. Great stuff.