With his star turn in Donizetti’s La Fille du régiment due for a repeat run at the Royal Opera House, Juan Diego Flórez is back in town. He will want to make sure his pealing runs of high Cs are polished up for the opening night and the Peruvian tenor’s warm-up routine included this solo recital with piano accompaniment on Friday.
Whatever he is singing, Flórez is always Flórez – safe, consistent, with a five-star voice that never lets him down. In the past his predictable repertoire has sometimes seemed as much a drawback as a virtue, but after the unnervingly bizarre experience of rival tenor Rolando Villazón’s concert at the Royal Festival Hall last week a bit of reliability suddenly did not seem such a bad thing.
The programme was also a little more varied than Flórez has offered in the past. The first half opened with a Cimarosa aria and moved on to songs from the elderly Rossini’s Péchés de vieillesse, the “sins of his old age” – vintage Rossini, retaining all his youthful zest but with an added sense of adventure in the harmony.
Flórez has just the lithe voice these pieces demand and spun an elegant line through the absent husband’s lament of “La lontananza”. To raise a cheer before the interval he added Rodrigo’s “Ah! come mai non senti” from Rossini’s Otello and threw out a handful of his trademark top Cs.
The second half ventured into the less familiar territory of the Spanish zarzuela. Despite Vincenzo Scalera’s expert accompaniments, these arias ideally call for an orchestra. Nevertheless, Flórez’s bright, lean tenor was softened to provide a romantic bloom in arias by Serrano and Soriano, and in Vives’s Doña Francisquita he raised the temperature at least 10 degrees with an emotional outpouring of the kind Rossini tenors do not encounter often.
Massenet’s “Pourquoi me réveiller?”, the first of two French opera arias, asks for a deeper and warmer tenor than Flórez can offer, but his slim sound suited the lighter Boieldieu perfectly. A clutch of sparkling encores followed: more Rossini, Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, Verdi’s “La donna è mobile”, and a “little Peruvian song” to finish. Now it is on to polishing those top Cs for next week. () www.barbican.org.uk