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From a piano bar to a plinth

 Juan Diego Flórez reprises a princely role at the Met in New York

Michael Church | May/June 2014

Opera singers who hit mega-fame tend to become coarsened by the process, but nothing has diluted the purity of Juan Diego Flórez’s singing since his electrifying debut, 14 years ago, as the disguised prince in “La Cenerentola” at Covent Garden. Purling out his preternaturally rapid coloratura—which became sweeter and easier the higher he went—this elegant young creature seemed tailor-made to stand on a plinth. And that, despite his gracefully unassuming manner, is where his native land has now put him. Laden with honours, he’s the nearest thing Peru has to royalty.

But his beginnings could not have been humbler. He began by strumming along with his folk-singer father—and sometimes standing in for him—in a piano bar in Lima, and his original aspirations extended no higher than fronting his own pop group. Lift-off came when three of America’s top conservatoires suddenly competed to acquire him as a student; within a few years he’d turned himself into the tenore di grazia of choice for every opera house in the world. And as audiences at the New York Met will discover when he reprises his “Cenerentola” role opposite the equally charismatic Joyce DiDonato, he is also one of the most adroit comedians in the business. ~ Michael Church

"La Cenerentola" Met, New York, to May 10th

 

CLASSICAL AT A GLANCE

Toby Spence (Wigmore Hall, London, April 28th). This British singer was on the crest of a Wagnerian wave when he was struck down by thyroid cancer in 2011. After surgery, he had to rebuild his voice from scratch. He has done it triumphantly, as this Schubert recital will show.

Joseph Calleja (Southbank, London, April 29th). No such problems for this acclaimed Maltese tenor, who will draw the same crowd that packed out his Proms appearance last year with an evening of his favourite operatic arias. He has the common touch, with no compromise of artistic integrity.

Thebans (ENO, London, May 3rd). The British composer Julian Anderson is a newcomer to big-time opera, and this workwhich will reconceive the tragedy of Oedipusis eagerly awaited, thanks partly to its outstanding production team led by Pierre Audi.

Wiener Festwochen (Vienna, May 9th to June 15th). Taking in all the arts, this annual festival is always packed with novelties. This year it has new productions of Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice” and Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte”.

Made in China (Cité de la musique, Paris, May 16th-23rd). Like London in the Sixties and New York in the Eighties, today’s Shanghai and Beijing are exploding with underground musical creativity. This season reflects that, with Chinese and Western instruments melding in new compositions. ~ MC

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