Juan Diego Flórez

Juan Diego FlórezJuan Diego Flórez was born in Lima, Peru, on 13 January 1973. His father, Rubén Flórez , was a singer of Peruvian folk songs and his son inherited the musical vein and as a boy and teenager sang his father’s songs, besides singing in a rock band and doing his own compositions. At high school he started singing in the school chorus and was tempted to take up classical training, encouraged by his music teacher Genaro Chumpitazi. Chumpitazi recommended him to the Conservatorio Nacional de Música in Lima, and at the age of 17 (1990) he enrolled at the Conservatory. During his years at the conservatory he also received classes from tenor Andrés Santa María, who was training the Coro Nacional de Peru, and into which Flórez was offered a position. In 1993 he went to the Curtis Insitute in Philadelphia, where he remained until 1996, in which period he also received classes from Marilyn Horne at the Santa Barbara Academy Summer School.

In 1994, while in Peru for his summer vacations, he met the eminent Peruvian tenor Ernesto Palacio. He took interest in Flórez and started giving him advice. Under his supervision, Flórez traveled to Italy to study and prepare roles that he were to sing at the Curtis Institute. While still a student in Philadelphia, Flórez was given the opportunity to audition for the Rossini Festival in Pesaro, where he was given a small role. He finsished his studies the same year, and at the age of 23 he headed for Italy to rehearse the small role of Ernesto in Rossini’s Riccardo e Zoraide. Two weeks before the opening of the 1996 festival the leading tenor in the opera Matilde di Shabran, Bruce Ford, fell ill and canceled. The role, Corradino – of extreme difficulty – was offered to Flórez in desperation: he was a young and unexperienced tenor who was not familiar with the role. Yet he learnt the role in a week’s time. The performance was a major success and eyes were all of a sudden on Flórez .

From his professional debut in Pesaro in Agust, and passing by the Wexford Festival, Flórez opened the season at La Scala in December in Glück’s Armide. He had been picked by Riccardo Muti for the role after La Scala executives had witnessed his prowess in Pesaro. Other important names in opera who also had been present in Pesaro were equally interested in engaging the new tenor, and within short he had performed at all the major venues in Europe and the States in a vast number of roles. In 1998 he made his debut at Covent Garden, London, stepping in for an ailing Giuseppe Sabbatini in the first modern performance of Donizetti’s Elizabetta (the score had been found in Covent Garden’s cellars). By 1999 he had sung Barbiere at the Wien Staatsoper and the Met had him on their bills for the first time in February 2002, in the same role. His schedule is currently [2004] fully booked up to 2008.

Flórez ‘ repertory is exclusively bel canto: Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti, in a vast series of operas that only very recently has received projection. Fortunate for Flórez , because, as he says, he can sing what he likes to sing and what suits his instrument. That instrument is a light, yet bright voice with solid projection and an exceptional evenness, perhaps due to the fact that his voice never broke in adolescence. Hence, Flórez has no problems with the passagio, he can sing throughout the entire range without breaking between the registers. Flórez claims that his most recent maestro and manager, tenor Ernesto Palacios is the one responsible for his agile and free emission. Before meeting Palacio he wanted to be a “Big tenor” and his emission was “round and cavernous,” as he puts it, but “Palacio taught me clarity, agility, to relax and open up the tone, to sing with more focus and project the tone better.”

In April 2000 he was awarded the “Premio Abbiati della Critica” for best singer in 1999, and in July 2000 he received “Rossini d’Oro” prize in Pesaro. Since March 2001 he has been an exclusive recording artist for Decca, and won Germany’s Echo award for the Best Operatic Male Recital album. In 2003 he won a Cannes Classical Music Award in the Song and Vocal Recital category. His successful career is ongoing.