Tuesday, July 21, 2009

L' Assedio d' Atene: Juan Diego Flórez triumphs under the Parthenon

Greek folk dances, greek cuisine and bouzouki?

Could these be the first words in a post about
Juan Diego Flórez' spectacular recital in Athens?

It seems that Sunday night with friends and family (la bella Julia) at some tourist restaurant of Plaka (no kiddin') gave Juandi supernatural powers.

Coz supernatural is the only word that could describe this exquisite demonstration of artistry by one of the leading singers of our times and probably the best Rossinian singer ever (ever!).

It was Rossini indeed what Part 1 was all about.
The recital started off with the overture from La Cenerentola and Juandi first stepped on stage - in total black- to sing Don Ramiro's "Si, ritrovarla io giuro".

"Principe piú non sei..." were his first words, and our "principe" was there, just a few metres away from us.

JDF stepping on stage

Wisely enough, a huge podium was set
for Juandi at the rear part of the stage so that he would be perfectly audible to even the most distant member of the audience (something that must have come as a shock to the members of the audience of the lower tier of the theatre and to the vip's who in this case would spend the night trying to see Juandi between the violins and the timpani). The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is not the easiest theatre in the world. And even if during rehearsals you think you can make it, the wall of 5,000 people in the audience, would make anyone shiver.

Not Juandi.

After an exemplary rendition of Don Ramiro's aria, it was time for Semiramide and "La speranza piú soave". Juan Diego had already "weighed" the accoustics and his volume during the first aria and his Idreno sounded even easier than his Ramiro.

I suppose that most connoiseurs in the theatre were eager to hear his "Cessa di piú resistere" ...And everybody was left ecstatic, wondering about the glory of the human voice, or rather this specific voice.

Part 2 was dedicated to Bellini and Donizetti.

Juandi's Tebaldo ("È serbato, a questo acciaro") was a masterclass of legato and fiato, his Nemorino "Quanto é bella" first and "Una furtiva lagrima" right afterwards, brought tears to many eyes and was by far the most bravoed selection of the night.
Last but not least, JDF's trademark, "Ah!mes amis!" (that 99% of the greek newspapers had been describing as the aria of the 9 high...E's).

The screaming and the bravoing went on and on till JDF returned on stage for what I consider the most marvelous moment of the recital:
"L' amour, l' amour - Ah lève toi soleil"
and JDF treating Gounod 's music as if it were the finest piece of lace, sending me to heaven with a one-way-ticket
(I'm still there).

Time for some popular tunes.

For "La Donna é mobile" Juandi decides to leave the podium and move to the front part of the stage, next to the maestro only to return to his podium for "Granada".

Standing ovation, people screaming, whistling, Juandi
receiving the audience's apotheosis in the most humble fashion.

* Just before La Donna é mobile, a voice was heard in the Odeon: "Disculpe la orquesta!" - Sorry for the orchestra!. It was the least that could be said to this unique artist on behalf of the greek opera-goers. Sorry, indeed, for a horrible orchestra that didn't even try to sound decent, that for once more demonstrated it's incapability of creating one, just one! decent musical phrase, an orchestra that massacred whatever it played, making even Juandi to slow down his agilitá and his colorature 'cause they could not follow.
A disgrace! (I wouldn't even dear to imply anything against maestro Alessandro Vitiello who should spend an eternity and a day in order to make this orchestra sound acceptable).


Julia Trappe-Flórez, Ernesto Palacio,
Daniela Barcellona, Giovanni Pacor
taking their seats just before the concert


derwanderer said...

Yes, this recaptures perfectly Monday night.
It was my first ever live exposure to JDF voice and , if I may, I would like to add:
We all know that this kind of summer "charity" recitals can be a very lucrative and a not-so-serious activity for singers in their prime and past their prime.
I have to admit that Juandi, two days after completing his "apoteόsico" cycle of Barbieres at ROH, came and decided that he should offer Athenians all he could humanly give.
The programm, trademark "highlights" of his, the unseen palco on which he sang to be audible to THE UPPPER TIER, even if this would mean he would displease his rich check pourveyors, on the lower, the utterly professional way he dealt with the EXCECRABLE orchestra HE WAS SINGING AGAINST, everything, above anything else his supreme musicianship and bravura, all show a trully great, immense artist and a fine fellow.
We don't know how Rubini was singing, but I dare say, as Parsi, that JDF must be, probably, the "best" interpreter of Rossini, ever.
The voice, although not "big", is extremely well placed, even, and, of course, supernaturaly agile.
I have never heard a male voice with such agility and ease, not even Jarrousky's. To be honest, Juandi's is not a voice with a big palette of nuances and demi-teintes,but his usual detractors accusing him of singing everything flatly and through the noise are certainly very wrong.
To add two lines on the program: Yes, his Cessa di Piu Resistere gave me the frisson. If his Ah! Mes Amis, was, somehow a bit less spectacular than expected (NO GUYS, ALL 9 C's WERE THERE), his Leve-toi Soleil was pure magic, and so was his Tebaldo.
I found Lagrima a bit anticlimactic, not realy because of him, but mostly because of a naughty cicada (!) that started giving him "seconda voce" just when he attacked the first note and because of the flat and unpoetic (and amplified!!!) harp playing.
Also, as a matter of personnal taste, I prefer "meatier", more nuanced voices in that piece (and definately IN ANOTHER VENUE).
As far as I am concearned, I have nothing more to add on the HORRENDUS orchestra, a most indecent and awfull band, incapable of just an ounce of musicality and precision. THUMBS DOWN! I hope that JDF has forgiven them for unconciously (χωρίς περίσκεψιν, χωρίς λύπην, χωρίς αιδώ...)sabotaging his artistry.
Finally, just a word on his recorded voice: I assure everybody that was not present on Monday that JDF real voice (in a notoriously difficult venue) sounds EXACTLY as the recorded voice we know.
It was a magnificent night, the best way to commemorate the 40th anniversary of man's first walk on the moon. Conspiracy theory lovers beware: JUAN DIEGO'S ARTISTRY IS NO HOAX!!!
Deja que te agradezca, Limeño, for flying us to the moon and safely back.
And thanks to the "charity" oriented cafe-society members who decided to offer us the possiblity of sampling such a giant's artistry at his absolute prime, and for behaving decently during the performance (no mere feat!)
I will post a video of his Leve-toi Soleil as soon as i get it out of the camera (a technical bogus has prevented me from doing so)
Herodeion was not as full as it was for Barenboim, Salonen or the Kirov Ballets but we were at least bedazzeled spectators. Juandi, I want you back!

mahler76 said...

a hero indeed that he could sing having to listen to this orchestra. A night to remember though thanks to J.D.F.

derwanderer said...

addentum : Herodeion was not as full as it was for Barenboim, Salonen or the Kirov Ballets

but we were at least 4500 bedazzeled spectators.

Parsifal said...

I'm pretty sure that for Salonen the number of spectators was a lot less...

mahler76 said...

It was less. First it was Daniel and then Juan as I could tell.

Anonymous said...

Whose responsibility was the unprepared orchestra?

Parsifal said...

Let me think....

Mine? hmmmm....not really

The audience's (who had paid GOOD money)? Mmmmm...neither.


The National Symphony Orchestra of ERT performed mostly standard repertoire (they must have performed the Overture to Il Barbiere a thousand times) and had 10 days to rehearsed (I'm pretty sure that Alessandro Vitiello was here for that long). I don't even wanna think what a disaster would that be under the Orchestra's resident conductor, you-know-who.

Anonymous said...

I read the name Siemeonidis as the
resident conductor. Right?
Which brings us to the next justified question: Who supervises this man so as to be sent home if he does not do his job properly?

derwanderer said...

@ anonymous: The other resident maestro, Pylarinos, who received a friend's congratulations while we were expecting to meet JDF. Apparently, maestro Pylarinos was happy with his orchestra's performance... Pigs with batons, I dare say...

Anonymous said...

I was there.if I didn't know the guy was so famous,I'd say he was just a good singer who sings with his nose and can be bearly heard from that clown little stage he ordered to sit.

Parsifal said...

So, I suppose you must have REALLY liked the orchestra....

derwanderer said...

@ Anonymous said...
I was there.if I didn't know

YOU ARE RIGHT! We, who like him, are deluded idiots. In a couple pf weeks or so, concerts of Anni Vissi and Mitropanos will take place in Herodeion. You will feel much more confortable, they will be VEERY AUDIBLE, and you will enjoy the music and stylish singing.
Let me guess, you had been offered tickets by the charity organizations?

Parsifal said...

Hehehe, my favourite part was "If I didnt know the guy was famous".

For the Barbiere in London a couple of weeks ago, tickets sold out in like 5 minutes, about 4 months before the performance (I remember buying them in March). I had to make a decision about the tickets I would buy in like 30 seconds coz if I didnt I would stay out...And people flew from all over the Planet to be there and listen to Juan Diego and the fine supporting cast...

There's something worse than morons: morons with an opinion and the confidence to express it...

Parsifal said...

Oh, and just in case you're still wondering "What did I miss?", read this


derwanderer said...

He is NOT wandering! He just waits Kazantzidis to rise from the dead, and offer a post-mortem "recital" at Herodeion.
One of the problems in this country is that people jumped from the backyard shit-hole and the ox-cart of their village to italian bathrooms and Cayennes in less than a generation. What a pitty you can't buy education and culture.
Pabably our anonymous friend had been offered lower tier tickets and he was pissed not to be able to see correctly because of the palco. It is sure that Peggy Zina and the other dog-singers that our contemptor preferes, know perfectly how to please RICH patrons. JDF has no such class and tact!

Pinkerton said...

From the language you use,I can clearly see you guys are just another typical piece of conceited midget opera singers,who can only survive their middling existence by smearing another's opinion and the rest,with baseless comments like 'I suppose you liked the orchestra'(I didn't speak about the orchestra bytheway),and link me with....Anna Vissi and all that buzuki stuff,I am sure you admire in your back of your head!That guy is another example of the star system just like Fragulis,you guys are sheeps to consider him as a God.He's just the Fragulis of Peru,far away from the normal stars like Domingo ect ect.Take for example 'una furtiva lagrima':no sentiment,no moving phrase..just a good academic performance.(just to demonstrate to You that I don't belong to the buzuki company,which I am sure you like hearing when it comes to Theodorakis,whereas I completely dispise all buzuki).The only phrase it suits You well, is an except from an Opera- you have to guess which-I dedicateto You all,you had the audacity to call me Peggy Zina fan,charity ticket buyer and moron:'Tu sei geloso!,Lunatico!,Imbevuto di pregiudizi!,Noioso!,Cocciuto!!'

Parsifal said...

He's got a point indeed...Whoever is not into Wagner is not necessarily a Vissi/Zina/Frangoulis fan are nouveau-riche. But regarding the rest of it...I will have to maintain my position. oh, and an opera singer??? God, no...

Frangoulis of Peru? Frangoulis would give his liver to have 1/100000 of his agility/high notes/even volume, etc etc and of course comparing JDF (a tenor highly acclaimed worldwide by fans/critics/singers, with a huge career within 13 years) and a non-existant pop singer (like Frangoulis, who has never EVER sung an opera part on stage) is the most hilarious thing I ve heard lately...

derwanderer said...

So very difficult to guess, amico!
Boheme. And, by the way, gelosi of WHOOM? Of Frangulis?
"who sings with his nose and can be bearly heard from that clown little stage he ordered to sit"

This disquaifies you completely. Clown stage? Because he wanted the upper tier to be able to enjoy as well? It was, on the contrary, the attitude of a decent, generous professional, who puts his stardom down to please his REAL audience, be it during a charity recital, in a provincial (musically wise) place.
As for his talent, our host has replied already.

Parsifal said...

I'm so bored of listening over and over again the same ol' excuse on JDF's voice. "The voice is small, there's no volume" blah blah blah. First of all, why do we except from a leggero whose repertory is mainly Rossinian/Bellinian to possess the volume of a Del Monaco? These voices are meant to be projected in italian-type theatres and not open-air sites and their main advantage being the coloratura (JDF is better than Blake's for example), the high notes, the nuance, the piani, all of them abundant in JDF's voice. Comparing JDF to Domingo (and not JDF to Chris Merritt, Blake, Ford, or even Kraus) shows only mere ignorance.

derwanderer said...

The guy told us: HE IS AFTER "NORMAL STARS".
So Jdf is abnormal, or not a star.
I repeat myself, the voice heard on Monday was EXACTLY the voice heard on his studio recordings. And not that small, after all.
Had he even a slight clue as to opera style, types of voices, types of techniques and so on, he would't have utterd such a coment.
It is pointless to discuss, he doesn't like JDF voice, neither repertoire, neither style. He is entitled to his opinion. And we are free to have an opinion as to our contemptor's experience and science.

Kenderina said...

Why people don't say.."I don't like JDF", it's easier and they would save a lot of typing and us the readers a lot of nonsense.

I do like JDF but I have no problem with anyone who doesn't. Except when they try to justify themselves...that bothers me very much !

Γρηγορης Αντωνοπουλος said...

Congratulations on your excellent blog - keep up the good work!

I wish I had been there to admire this great singer. Maybe next time (fingers crossed)...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review! As if we were there.

Hariclea said...

Parsi that is a serious overdose you got on JDF ;-)))) That podium was a clever idea, open air is tough on opera singing. I'm glad people liked it. I agree with Kende, opera and its singers is like marmite, you either like it or you hate it :-) It is all a matter of taste, it is mainly entertainment not science :-)

And you can like Wagner and JDF i assure you :-p

Anonymous said...

OMG! What an amazing review! Thank you for the photos and everything! JDF is the best!