Juan Diego Flórez / Vincenzo Scalera - Barbican, 7 May 2010
Cimarosa Pria che spunti in ciel from Matrimonio segreto Rossini La lontananza Le Sylvain L’orgia Intervento pianistico Che ascolto from Otello Jose Serrano El mismo rey del moro from La alegria del batallon Agustin Perez Soriano Serenata from El guitarrico Tomás Barrera Saavedra Adios Granada from Los emigrantes Amadeo Vives Por el humo from Doña Francisquita Jules Massenet Pourquoi me reveiller from Werther François-Adrien Boieldieu Vien gentile dame from La dame blanche Encores: Rossini cabaletta from Cessa di più resistere Gounod Ah, lève-toi soleil "a Peruvian little song" Verdi La donna è mobile
Juan Diego Flórez is sometimes criticised for focussing on a narrow range of repertoire. Yet all tenors have their limitations. Flórez should instead be praised for recognising his. Better to be a first rate Almaviva or Tonio every night than fritter credibility and vocal health away on ill-suited escapades.
Tonight's audience would I'm sure have been happy with the familiar bel canto firecrackers. And though he tossed out a couple, this recital displayed an intelligent extension of the Flórez arsenal. A handful of charming salon songs from Rossini's Péchés de vieillesse, some hot-blooded zarzuela, and a couple of classic French operatic arias were a step away from the roles he's best known for but not outside his comfort zone.
The Rossini songs aside, most were designed to be sung with full orchestra. And although Vincenzo Scalera is a fine pianist and the perfect accompanist for Juan Diego, there was a bit of an undernourished, rehearsal-room feel to the operatic material, magnified by the unforgiving Barbican acoustic.
But I don't see how any but the meanest of critics could find anything to fault in the performance itself. At full blast, Flórez's laser-bright voice could bore through concrete, and he continues to develop an expressive range beyond that. It's subtle - his vocal palette is defined by tints rather than bold colour - and complemented by sensitive rubato.
He doesn't need to whip out the high C's to impress either. The highlight wasn't the familiar coloratura flash of Che ascolta, but the lament of a reluctant emigré in Tomás Barrera Saavedra's Adios Granada.
The programme wasn't long, an hour maybe, but it was concentrated - none of the usual orchestral filler. Still, there was no way he could escape the rapturous audience without a few encores, including "a Peruvian little song" for all "the many people from Peru" present. For once the nowadays-inevitable ovating was thoroughly deserved.
photos: above by intermezzo.typepad.com; below courtesy of reader Michael (http://londonstuff.posterous.com/)