JUAN DIEGO FLÓREZ - Una furtiva lagrima
Arias by Donizetti (Rita, L'elisir d'amore, Don Pasquale, Elisabetta, and La Fille du rÈgiment) and Bellini (I Capuletti e i Montecchi, La sonnambula, and I puritani).
Juan Diego Flórez, tenor; Nikola Mijailovic, bass; Nicola Ulivieri, bass; Ermonela Jaho, soprano; Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro di Milano Giuseppe Verdi/Riccardo Frizza, cond.
London 044336 (F) (DDD) TT: 63:57
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Last year I reviewed a superb disc of arias from operas by Rossini featuring the talented young Peruvian tenor, Juan Diego Flórez. In that review, I commented:

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 Flórez 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, Flórez 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!

In his latest recording, Flórez tackles the repertoire of the other two giants of the bel canto era, Gaetano Donizetti and Vincenzo Bellini. Many of the positive qualities found in the Rossini disc serve Flórez equally well in this new recording. The winning enthusiasm and technical brilliance are still very much in evidence. Listen, for example, to the way he dispatches the nine high Cs in Tonio's aria from La Fille du regiment.

But on this occasion these strengths are combined with a vocal timbre that has become warmer and more varied, aligned with a plasticity of phrasing that is at the heart of this repertoire. Both "Una furtive lagrima" and "A te, o cara" are delivered with admirable style and grace. And his diction, both in Italian and French, is crystal-clear. In short, Juan Diego Flórez has just about everything one could hope for in a tenore di grazia.

There are occasional blemishes. While Flórez sings with involvement and passion, he does not offer any unique interpretive insights. And the voice occasionally loses a bit of color at the conclusion of phrases. But overall, this is exceptional singing, indeed.

Production values of this disc are very high as well. The sound is first-rate, as is the playing of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, under Riccardo Frizza's accomplished direction. Additional vocal soloists and chorus are included when required by the score. The inclusion of the extended and beautiful trumpet solo that precedes Ernesto's aria in Don Pasquale (played in fine fashion by Gianluigi Petrarulo) is another plus. Flórez is also to be congratulated for including a few lesser-known works (Rita and Elisabetta) in this recital.

At the conclusion of my review of the Rossini disc I wrote: "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." This Donizetti and Bellini recital demonstrates that he is continuing on a path that will make him a treasured artist for years to come.

K.M. (April 2003)