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Juan Diego Flórez Biography

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Juan Diego Flórez In-depth Biography

Sometimes promoted as the successor to Luciano Pavarotti}, Peru's Juan Diego Flórez} is actually a very different kind of tenor, and one of a sort that has not been seen much in recent years: his voice is light, extremely athletic, and suited above all to the bel canto} tenor roles of the early nineteenth century. Among the accomplishments of his young career was the restoration to its proper place of a difficult passage, long considered unsingable, in the role of {%Almaviva} in Rossini}'s Il barbière di Siviglia} (The Barber of Seville). His primary vocal model is not Pavarotti} but Spanish tenor Alfredo Kraus} -- a performer less well known to the general public but equally well admired among opera} cognoscenti.

Born in 1973 in Lima to a folk} guitarist father, Flórez} sang when he was young in a rock} band that specialized in Beatles} and Led Zeppelin} covers. What set him on the road to an operatic career was a free voice course he took in conjunction with membership in his high school choir. He enrolled at the Lima Conservatory when he was 17, moving on from there to Philadelphia's Curtis Institute on a full scholarship. One mentor was Peruvian tenor Ernesto Palacio}, who became Flórez}'s manager.

At the 1996 Pesaro Festival} in Italy, Flórez} was booked to sing a minor role in Rossini}'s Ricciardo e Zoraide} but took over the lead role in a newly unearthed Rossini} opera} called Matilde di Shabran} after the scheduled tenor had to cancel. Rhapsodic praise from hard-to-please Italian opera} fans led to a debut at La Scala} in Gluck}'s Armide} and then to the rest of the world's major opera} houses over the next several years. His Metropolitan Opera} debut in New York came in 2002 as {%Almaviva} in Il barbière} -- a role that is emerging as one of his specialties.

Possessed of good looks and trademark curly hair that have elicited nearly universal comment among music writers, Flórez} faced pressure to assume the mantle of opera} megastardom. He has won praise from close observers of the operatic scene, however, for taking account of the unusual nature of his voice and sticking to the repertory to which he is best suited, avoiding for the most part the heavier roles of Verdi} and reintroducing audiences to something of the full fire that might have been heard on an Italian stage of the early nineteenth century. "I think I know my limitations," Flórez} told theEconomist} in 2002. "I have been offered Mozart}'s Mitridate}. I looked at the part, but it's all just a little low, and he's just a bit too angry all the time. It's not for me."

Booked at this writing through the year 2009, Flórez} has released three solo albums on the Decca} label: one of Rossini} arias}, one (Una furtiva lagrima}) including arias} by Bellini} and Donizetti}, and 2004's Great Tenor Arias}, which in the words of London's Observer} newspaper "confirms his growing reputation as one of the most exciting vocal talents around." He has expressed an interest in exploring the repertory of Peruvian song. ~ James Manheim, All Music Guide

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