Florez, Juan Diego

Florez, Juan Diego
▪ 2009

born Jan. 13, 1973, Lima, Peru

 Singing in Gaetano Donizetti's La Fille du régiment at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in April 2008, the Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez, by prior arrangement with management, broke a long-standing policy against encores when he repeated the aria “Ah! mes amis,” with its nine spectacular high Cs. The repetition of arias had been common until the practice was banned in the 20th century as performances became more serious, formal affairs, and this episode was a sign that opera might be loosening up once again. In fact, a year earlier, in performing the same music, Flórez had broken a similar 74-year ban at La Scala in Milan.

      Flórez, whose father was a performer of popular music, entered Peru's National Conservatory of Music at the age of 17. He was originally interested in pop music himself, but his focus shifted to the development of his classical voice. He received a scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, which he attended from 1993 to 1996, and he then studied with the Peruvian tenor Ernesto Palacio, who subsequently became his manager. Flórez's first break came in 1996 when he replaced a singer on short notice in Matilde di Shabran at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Italy. He made his debut at La Scala later that year and at Covent Garden in London the next year. Within a few years he was singing in other major opera houses across Europe and the U.S. and was giving recitals on concert stages throughout Europe and the Americas.

      Flórez had a light and agile voice that could be especially expressive. Given his impeccable technique and his high range, he was being called the new king of the high Cs. He specialized in the bel canto repertoire of Donizetti and Vincenzo Bellini, and he came to be considered the best Gioachino Rossini singer of his generation. Some of his performances in opera were issued on DVDs, including his roles as Count Almaviva in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia (2005) and as Tonio in La Fille du régiment (2008), in a production with soprano Natalie Dessay as Marie. Operas on CD included Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's rarely performed early work Mitridate, rè di Ponto (1999) and Rossini's Le Comte Ory (2004), and Flórez also sang on recordings of Rossini sacred works, including Stabat Mater (1998). In addition, Flórez made several solo recordings, including Una furtiva lagrima (2003), works of Bellini and Donizetti; Sentimiento Latino (2006), a compilation of South American and Spanish songs; and Arias for Rubini (2007), works of Donizetti, Bellini, and Rossini, honouring the great 19th-century tenor Giovanni Rubini. Juan Diego Flórez: Bel Canto Spectacular (2008) included both solo performances and collaborations with such singers as soprano Anna Netrebko and tenor Plácido Domingo. Flórez's recordings won a number of awards, and in 2007 he was awarded the Order of the Grand Cross of the Sun of Peru, the country's highest honour.

Robert Rauch

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Universalium. 2010.

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