No less than the legendary Luciano Pavarotti once hailed Juan Diego Flórez as his successor as the King of the High Cs.
At the Metropolitan Opera, the Peruvian-born tenor was the first since Pavarotti himself to be allowed an encore — usually an extreme rarity in modern productions. That happened in 2008, when Flórez was performing the role of Tonio in Donizetti’s La fille du regiment, which had been a signature part for Pavarotti decades earlier. (Pavarotti’s encore came in 1994, during a performance of Puccini’s Tosca.)
On that occasion, New York magazine critic Justin Davidson wrote: “Flórez plucked the chain of Cs in Tonio’s aria ‘Ah, mes amis’ like daisies, making it look less like a feat than like fun. ... And when the applause finally subsided, he did the number again, with a grin that suggested he could keep ringing those top notes all night.”
In his first Chicago appearance since 2005, Flórez will perform with pianist Vincenzo Scalera in a Symphony Center Presents recital Jan. 31. He has presented the program, consisting of arias by Donizetti, Gluck, Rossini and Verdi, over the last year or so, most recently at the Zurich Opera House on Dec. 5.
Covering the Zurich recital for the site Online Merker, critic Jan Krobel had the highest of praise: “Even with the first title, Paride’s aria ‘O del mio dolce ardor’ from Gluck's Paride ed Elena, it can be seen that the singer’s voice is getting better and better. ... His calm, free, highly sensitive intonation is still unmatched. The lyrical emphasis, the euphony extracted and motivated from the text, not to mention the highly musical embellishments, cannot be found in any other singer.”
The review noted that Flórez presented the audience with seven encores (following 11 during a recital earlier this year at La Scala). The songs ranged from the traditional Latin ballad “Cucurrucucú Paloma” to more arias by Verdi and Puccini. Concluding his review, Krobel added, “[It was] an evening that only Juan Diego Flórez can offer: Unique or seul sur la terre!” (Alone on earth, referring to an aria from Rossini’s Dom Sébastien, roi de Portugal.)