Royal Albert Hall, London
When Juan Diego Flórez first appeared in the Rosenblatt Recitals series in 2001, he sang at St John's, Smith Square, in London. He has subsequently stepped up to the much larger Royal Festival Hall, and now to the vast Albert Hall – a trajectory reflecting the Peruvian tenor's increasingly wide audience appeal. Judging by his reception from a near-capacity crowd, superstar status cannot be far off.
Yet he showed little desire to make his programme overtly populist, a sidestep into Lehár and the Mario Lanza staple Be My Love in the second half notwithstanding. His major solos included rare arias from Rossini's La Scala di Seta, Bellini's Il Pirata and Donizetti's Rita; he also homed in on early 20th-century zarzuela – an operetta-like genre little known beyond the Spanish-speaking world.
It took his voice a couple of items to hit its freest and most confident form, but thereafter his elegant, focused tone rang out clean and clear, with his famous high register – the money-notes for a tenor of his distinction – not just firm but flamboyant.
Yet despite the obvious and instinctive excitement these luminous leaps into the stratosphere engender, Flórez's artistry is far more broadly based. His delineation of text is impeccable, his softer singing delicate and beautifully imagined, his phrasing and breath control are things to wonder at. Alfredo's aria from Traviata, and (Flórez's second encore) La Donna E Mobile from Rigoletto, were as refined and polished as you could wish for. His combination of musicianship and charm places him among today's greatest performing artists.
Some stylish work, too, from the accompanying orchestra under Alessandro Vitiello, including welcome alternatives to the well-worn pieces usually trotted out on these occasions to intersperse the vocal items.
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