Juan Diego Florez may never be "three tenor" material, but when you can hit nine top Cs with the ease he displayed in Donizetti's "Ah! Mes amis...", you don't need comrades-in-arms. The handsome Peruvian clearly has a huge and appreciative following, who adore his apparently effortless and well-focused sound. This aria, from La Fille du régiment, is not for the faint-hearted, and Florez delivered it to perfection with seeming insouciance. As he demonstrated in a beautiful account of another Donizetti aria, "Una furtiva lagrima" from L'elisir d'amore, the size of his voice is less important than its honeyed quality and agility.
However, it was in an earlier aria, from Rossini's The Barber of Seville, that Florez most dazzled. "Cessa di piu resistere", is a piece of vocal pyrotechnics. Its rippling scales and decorative coloratura passages demand knife-edge precision, and Florez didn't disappoint. His vocal energy and pace were electrifying.
This kind of programme, made up of shortish pieces frequently interrupted by applause and stage business, can quickly turn into a series of bitty showpieces. But from the opening Barber of Seville Overture to an exuberant account of Chabrier's España, Barry Wordsworth, in his final concert as principal conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra, held the concert together with quiet aplomb. Under his idiomatic direction, players brought a swagger and a sexiness to three dances from Falla's The Three-Cornered Hat, and a refined sensuality to the tender intermezzo from Granados's Goyescas.
The programme brought out the best in both conductor and orchestra, even though the solo pianist, Artur Pizarro, seemed so intent on infusing Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain with poetry at the expense of drama, that even in the swirling last movement, the gardens never quite came into full bloom.
Out of a handful of Latin-American popular songs in the programme, "Mejico lindo", an unofficial Mexican national anthem, is a song to stir the passions. "El dia que me quieras", a tango featuring the haunting sound of the bandoneon, was delicately shaded and expressive, with Florez demonstrating that he has crooner potential, too.
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