Juan Diego Flórez and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra at the National Concert Hall, 25 October 2014
The much-vaunted tenor Juan Diego Flórez attracts a capacity audience to the National Concert Hall, and it’s not hard to see (or hear) why. The sound of a top-quality tenor voice at the height of its power has long had special, even visceral, appeal for audiences, transcending the music and even the singer himself. This concert is part of Flórez’s 2014 ‘Tour l’Amour’ – effectively promoting his latest album ‘L’Amour’, in which most of the items in tonight’s programme appear. After a career largely devoted to the Italian bel canto tradition of Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti, this material sees Flórez branching out to perform music of the Parisian grand opera and opéra-comique, a wonderful if not necessarily typical trajectory for such a voice.
If there had been any misgivings about this artistic choice, they soon vanish: from his opening aria, ‘Fantaisie aux divins mensonges’ [fantasy of divine illusion, you come back to bewilder me…], from Lakmé by Leo Delibes, Flórez shows fine technique, idiomatic style and clear, sensitive diction – his French is excellent. Flórez’s voice, an instrument of beauty and finesse, now shows darker, richer qualities and these are well applied to this material. In the two arias for the title character of Massenet’s Werther, Flórez projects the passion at the heart of this difficult figure well, his clarity of expression underscoring Werther’s tragic pain and hurt. Flórez’s finely-judged sense of line and phrase comes through equally in ‘Un ange, une femme inconnue’ [an angel, a mysterious woman] from Donizetti’s La Favorite, as well as the poetic song of praise ‘O blonde Cérès’ [Oh golden Ceres] from Berlioz’s Les Troyens. Following this we also hear two of the fourth-act ballets from this opera, stylishly played by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. This ensemble is in sparkling form throughout, with some beautifully-executed instrumental solos in both the overture to Adam’s Le Toréador and the first of the two Massenet arias, reminding us of how good an opera orchestra the RTÉCO is.
Flórez follows on with the showpiece aria ‘Ah! lève-toi, soleil’ [Arise, sun!] from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette; this ends on a high B, which he sings out with ringing intensity. Finally, from Offenbach’s comic operetta La Belle Hélène, Flórez brings his advertised programme to a close with the judgement song ‘Au Mont Ida trois déesses’ [on Mount Ida three goddesses…], brilliantly sending himself up as ‘the handsome young man’. After sustained applause, the audience is treated to three encores. The first two are real rarities: ‘Je veux encore entendre ta voix’ [I want to hear your voice once more] from Verdi’s first opera for Paris, Jérusalem, and ‘Ah! quel plaisir que d’être soldat’ [oh, what fun to be a soldier], brimming with energy, from Boieldieu’s sentimental comedy La Dame Blanche. Finally, the concert comes to its natural end with a barnstorming rendition of ‘La donna è mobile’ [Woman is fickle] from Verdi’s Rigoletto. In everything, Flórez brings freshness, vitality, and great singing, and he is ably partnered by the RTÉCO, robustly conducted (from memory) by Sebastiano Rolli.
Bizet: Overture (Carmen)
Delibes: ‘Prendre le dessin d’un bijou… Fantaisie aux divins mensonges’ (Lakmé)
Adam: Overture (Le Toréador)
Bizet: ‘À la voix d’un amant fidèle’ (La jolie fille de Perth)
Bizet: Farandole (L’Arlésienne)
Massenet: ‘O nature, pleine de grâce’ (Werther)
Massenet: ‘Pourquoi me réveiller’ (Werther)
Donizetti: ‘Un ange, une femme inconnue’ (La Favorite)
Donizetti: Overture (La Favorite)
Berlioz: ‘O blonde Cérès’ (Les Troyens)
Berlioz: Two dances:‘Pas des Almées’, ‘Danse des Esclaves’ (Les Troyens)
Gounod: ‘L’amour! L’amour! …Ah! lève-toi, soleil!’ (Roméo et Juliette)
Offenbach: ‘Au Mont Ida trois Déesses’ (La Belle Hélène)
Verdi: ‘Je veux encore entendre ta voix’ (Jérusalem)
Boieldieu: ‘Ah! quel plaisir que d’être soldat’ (La Dame Blanche)
Verdi: ‘La donna è mobile’ (Rigoletto)