Juan Diego Flόrez’s fifth Rosenblatt Recital took place at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall. His program included mainstream Tenor set pieces, such as “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz,” “Be My Love,” and “De' miei bollenti spiriti,” as well as a series of lesser known bel canto and 20th Century Spanish material.
The first two offerings came from Bellini’s Il Pirata. The Württembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn, under the baton of Alessandro Vitiello, set the tenor of the evening with their energetic rendition of the Overture of the opera. Flόrez then came to the stage, greeted with rapturous applause, and regaled us with “Nel furor delle tempeste.” His clear, diamond voice launched into the aria, which called for 7 A4’s, a B4 and a D5! All this in the first aria! When approaching the D5, Flόrez had that perfect alignment of body and voice which is essential when a Tenor rises above the High C’s! His phrasing on the line “io l’amo, e peno” was particularly beautiful.
To follow Bellini, we were served Rossini! The orchestra powered through the Overture to La Scala di Seta. Special praise must go to the double basses for their expert playing of the more thunderous parts of the piece. From the same opera, Flόrez gave us “Vedrò qual sommo incanto.” The warmth of the first verse was followed by the virtuosity of the second, where Flόrez had a magnificent coloratura run, starting at Bb4 and returning right back again, and a C5 as ornamentation, both of which were handled masterfully. Verdi was also on the menu, with the Sinfonia from Luisa Miller showing off the talents of the fabulous clarinettist, and Flόrez on top form with “De' miei bollenti spiriti” from La Traviata.
After the interval we were treated to three Spanish composers. The first was from his Amadeo Vives’ zarzuela, Doña Francisquita: the famous second act aria "Por el humo se sabe." Flόrez’s dramatic, desperate outburst on the phrase “Se me entra por los ojos y a veces sueño que ya la adoro” with its alternating Ab4/G4 scoring, was very powerful. The second piece was a playful ditty called “El mismo rey del moro” from José Serrano’s La algería del batallόn. Finally we heard the Intermezzofrom Gerόnima Giménez’s La boda de Luis Alonso. The vitality with which the orchestra executed the piece was palpable, with committed, aggressive violins, and a sensational performance by the brass section.
With Lehár’s “Dein is mein ganzes Herz” and Brodzsky’s “Be My Love” Flόrez reminded us why the tenor voice has such beautiful melodies composed for it. The emotional delivery of the Lehár was infectious, and much credit should be given to the orchestra for judging correctly the level of sentimentality required. His delivery of “Be My Love” brought a tear to the eyes of a few of the audience members sitting around me. A few people around me were singing it to themselves as we waited for the final aria on the program.
Flόrez introduced the next piece, “Allegro io son” from Donizetti’s Rita, telling us that it was about a man who had lost his wife. Though it was no great loss as he didn’t want her anyway! There were several octave leaps up to B4, plus an octave jump up to C5. The high notes were effortless, amazingly so given the arias he had performed thus far. Flόrez’s humour shone through as he sang his “Tra la la la la”lines. It earned him whistles from the arena. A wave of foot-stomping went through the crowd as we waited to see what encores we would be getting.
Flόrez’s signature piece, “Ah, mes amis” from La fille du regiment was the first encore. The nine C5’s penetrating the Hall like a laser, on pitch and cutting straight through the orchestra. Next up, we had “La donna è mobile,” from Rigoletto. Flόrez's tempo slower than usual, showing off his astounding breath control and beautiful legato singing. He crowned the aria with a magnificent C5. The last piece,Granada, was a perfect ending. Flόrez created a wonderful texture to the phrases, and the Morish triplets at the end sent shivers down my spine.
The concert was an overwhelming success for Flόrez, and for Ian Rosenblatt’s Recital Series.