ROSSINI:  Arias from Semiramide, Otello, Il barbiere di Siviglia, La gazza ladra, I'italiana in Algeri, Zelmira, La donna del lago and La Cenerentola.
Juan Diego Flórez, tenor/Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro di Milano Giuseppe Verdi; Riccardo Chailly, cond.

LONDON 470 024 (F) (DDD) TT: 59:43

A few years ago, I purchased a CD entitled Rossiniana (Agora AG 164). It documents a 14 November 1997 concert at the Teatro Lirico in Milan, featuring young artists performing excerpts from various Rossini operas (see Review). My original interest in this disc arose from the participation of Vivica Genaux, a superb young mezzo who now lives in my adopted hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. I very much enjoyed Vivica Genaux's excellent contribution to Rossiniana, but I was also immediately drawn to another of the singers presented on the disk -- a Peruvian tenor by the name of Juan Diego Flórez. I was amazed that such a young artist (only 24 at the time of the concert) could sing Rossini's challenging music with such technical Član. Subsequent reaquaintance with Flórez in a complete recording of Donizetti's Alahor in Granata (Almaviva DS-0125) and another Rossini disc with mezzo Vesselina Kasarova (RCA 57131-2) reinforced my initial positive reaction.

Juan Diego Flórez's career has flourished, with debuts at major opera houses around the world, including La Scala, Covent Garden, and Vienna. Recently he enjoyed a highly successful debut at the Metropolitan Opera, singing Count Almaviva in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia. Concurrent with that Met debut, London records issued Flórez's first solo recital disc, a collection of Rossini arias.  In just about every way this is a fabulous disc. Flórez's voice is on the compact side, typical of artists who perform this repertoire. But the tone has an appealing spin and color that he maintains into a secure upper register. He tosses off Rossini's florid writing with astonishing ease, and without the aspirates employed by others in this repertoire. Because of his technical brilliance, he is able to approach this fiendishly difficult music with extraordinary confidence and, perhaps even more important, obvious delight in its performance. What a pleasure it is to hear a young singer who so enjoys what he does and is able to communicate that to his audience!

Flórez's performances of Rossini's music are not mere displays of technical fireworks. His clear diction, flowing legato, and fine sense of phrasing provide great satisfaction in the cantilena portions as well.  There are a few weaknesses. The lower register lacks authority, and there is not a tremendous sense of differentiation among the characters presented on this disc. But I want to emphasize that these are minor caveats and in no way prevented me from enjoying what is some of the most exciting Rossini tenor singing I've heard in a long while.  Flórez is certainly aided by the superb accompaniments provided by Riccardo Chailly and the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi. The recorded sound is excellent.

At the time I wrote this review (January 2002), the tenor had just turned 29 (he was born in Lima on 13 January 1973). Here's hoping that a decade or so from now this Rossini disc will be cited as the recording that introduced many to a great artist by the name of Juan Diego Flórez.

K.M.(Jan. 2002)