(Since La Scala's lawyers have warned OC in the past that she cannot post any images taken from inside the opera house, here's a file photo of our lovely joo-whan. Btw, you can read the initial review from a few hours prior here)
Expecting anything less than spectacular when going to see Juan Diego Flórez live – whether it be to witness a recital or opera…or even just to watch him washing his car or filing his taxes or setting the correct time on his DVD recorder – and *not* having your mind blow is pure folly. Which is why we arrived to the theater tonight in motorcycle helmets.
Ok not really…instead in the balmy Milan air (compared to the frigid winds earlier this weekend in Venice), OC boogied down to Scala in sky-high Fendi black leather platform pumps, Wolford velvet de Luxe gray leggings, a Stella McCartney gray silk shift dress, and my navy Miu Miu wool baby doll jacket, and was ready to show those Flórez groupies what’s what. No worries to the Trappester, who we spied in the audience, wearing a short black A-line dress with weird lacy shoulder caps and a plunging neckline, long blond hair free to her waist, and who later rushed past our entourage in the hallway to meet her Lamby Prince backstage. We were going to tackle her to the ground and make her give up the make of Flórez’s favorite undawarz so we could send him a pair, but it wasn’t worth scuffing my Fendis. We also admit that we wanted to pass on some recipes for some slammin osso buco or fatty cotoletta, as Flórez was looking tragically thin, and we couldn’t help but worry that Trappe’s Erdnuss-Crème sandwiches haven’t been to his liking these first few months of marriage.
Anyway, Flórez (every time you say his name it just makes him more powerful) took the stage earlier tonight to a rapt audience that was so appreciative and awestruck in front of his talent, that even before he uttered a single note, the bravi was heaped on his shoulders, to which he graciously acknowledged via his graceful idiosyncrasies, swathed in full frac and shiny patent leather shoes. Let's pop in that mix tape and put it on megabass.
He warmed up the house with Mozart's "Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön" from Die Zauberflöte, which was lovely enough, but OC rather prefers his tenore lirico of the bel canto Italian composers. The audience was tolerant of his delve into German-language repertoire, but we all knew why we really had come here tonight, and waited patiently. Next in line for the Mozart flow was "Si spande al sole in faccia" from Il Re Pastore, which exited to the first magnificent encore of the evening, well deserving as he ate those poor scales and arpeggi like Godzilla devouring Tokyo…the loggione and palchi exploding in applause and bravi. Then Bellini’s "La ricordanza", which was flawless in phrasing and suffused with emotion, to which Flórez reminded us all of his thorough control and effortless negotiations through any operatic score.
Then we had Rossini’s Les soirees musicales. During L’orgia lol, the audience exploded into (an orgy of) applause during a brief piano interlude before the work had completed, which was met with scolding hushes. Then JDF left the stage while excellent pianist, Vincenzo Scalera, played alone a waltzy Musique Anodine Prélude.
The last work before the break was “Deh! Truncate” from Elisabetta Regina d’Inghilterra. Flórez’s voice was a bit taxed at this point, and he had been expressing a dry tone for the first half of the recital. As Scalera played the intro measures, Flórez loudly cleared phlegm from his throat a few times, tugged at his white bowtie, and seemed perturbed. Scala was scalding tonight, arid as a desert and Flórez seemed to be suffering from that ailment, which he nevertheless plowed through professionally. Flawless Flórez always brings the charisma, and although none of that was lacking tonight, he was clearly suffering from the dry, hot heat in the theater, and it was the worst shape OC had ever seen him. Granted, the worst shape for Flórez is like 20x better than any old tenor, and still, he held to his game. After 50 minutes of singing, Flórez was treated to another rousing applause, filled with almost as many bravi as heard when he sang here last in February 2007 for La Fille du Régiment.
Flórez stepped back up to the stage less than a half hour later, and sang five consecutive songs by Rosa Mercedes Ayarza de Morales in clear diction and refreshed energy, animated acting, and feisty blocking. The first, “Cuando la tortora llora” was short and sweet, with an “Ay yi yi” thrown in for good measure. “Si mi voz muriera en tierra” showed-off the patented, impressive range of his voice, although filled with lament. At the end of the five songs, someone shouted, “Bravo Peru” and we all followed JDF’s outstretched hand, which pointed to the first galleria: A group of loggionisti had brazenly thrown over the side railing a Peruvian flag, and somehow didn’t get thrown out of the theater by the surly Scala pages.
French repertory was next, and Flórez sang “J’ai perdu mon Euridice” from Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice, which was hauntingly gorgeous. His perfect control and concentrated movement brought this one over the top, and again, the audience went wild at the end. Next, his “L’espoir renaît dans mon âme” wasn’t quite as strong, but it was all forgotten during his “Linda!” from Donizetti’s Linda di Chamounix, full on tenore di grazia, and full on fierce.
Bis time, and after thousands of screams from both male and female fans, he gifted us with "Una furtiva lagrima" from L'elisir d'amore, which he sung with such great passion, his acting off tha charts, his heart aching and his hands clenched in fists…then Ah Leve Toi Soleil from Romeo Et Juliette, then that one from his Great Tenor Arias disc of Lucrezia Borgia, and then "La donna è mobile" from Rigoletto (to which he began the opening measures by placing a rose playfully between his teeth, Duke styleee). Between each bis, requests came flooding in from the audience as if he were Frank Sinatra on world tour.
His final and fifth encore was "L'Alba Separa dalla Luce l'Ombra" by Francesco Paolo Tosti, which again, brought down the house. For all the flowers that rained down on the stage from the palchi, he gathered them all up in his hands, and acknowledged the audience as personally as his own family. Which is one of the reasons (aside from his skill) that his fans love him so: Every sea of an audience he manages to separate into an individual devotee, with his open glances and waves, humbly accepting without a touch of phoniness or annoyance that his voice indeed carries a true glimpse of the sublime within each note he emits…and it is via these moments, that we classical music followers find an addicting solace. Some have been known to even pee their pants in sheer extasy.