Review by Charlotte Leamon
Juan Diego Flórez made his long-awaited debut in Sydney on the 5th of November, performing at the concert hall of the Sydney Opera House. Flórez has established himself as one of opera’s greatest talents. A leggiero tenor, renowned for his vocal agility and lyrical voice.
Beginning his career with a light and pure-tone, Flórez’s voice has grown more dark and centred. His experience has led him to sing with sensitivity and grace that is unmatched. Singing a lot of French repertoire and operas, Flórez still sings bel canto and showed his Sydney audience the extent of his versatility in the night’s programme.
Accompanied by pianist Cécile Restier, Flórez sang Italian bel canto; French romantic opera; Verdi roles; and early 20th-century Verismo school. As the duo entered the stage, the audience erupted with applause and enthusiasm. With many Peruvians and opera fanatics in the audience, Flórez was delivered a heartening welcome. However, most audience members were not frequent opera-goers which led to disruptions throughout the performance. This was distracting to both the audience members and the performers.
Flórez soared through coloratura excerpts and aspirates throughout the night. Expanding upon a rich, full sound in the higher register which left the audience in awe. His phrasing and diction were divine, and his stature was confident and strong. With the subtle assistance of his arms growing wide as he reached the high Cs and Bs, Flórez made these high notes look easy.
Restier performed her solos gracefully and delicately where needed, and powerful where warranted. Her touch was purposeful and objective, leading to no faults and a grand sound in the concert hall. Her accompaniment was favouring to Flórez, letting him shine where warranted. Proven to be a great team and duo.
Performing all arias with emotion and vulnerability, Flórez grabbed the attention of the audience time and time again. In one cheeky moment, Flórez winked and waved at an audience member who squealed with joy as they were chosen. Making sure he reached every member of the audience, Flórez would strut or saunter — dependent on the aria — to sides of the stage. On the final note of “Che gelida manina” from La Bohème, he spun around to face the audience seated in the choir stalls so they could receive the grand ending too.
However, not all was finished! An encore consisting of roughly twelve songs continued the joy for another half hour. Bringing out a foot stool and guitar, Flórez sang Spanish songs in which the audience sang along. Restier came out multiple times with him to sing more operatic classics, and when it all came to an end the audience was thrilled with the extra songs they were spoiled with.
It was sad to see Flórez go, as what will be his first and most likely last time coming to Australia. A force to be reckoned with, and stamina undermined as he ripped through two and a half hours worth of repertoire. Flórez most definitely deserved the five standing ovations he received that night.