Sunday, April 10, 2011

Daddy Florez wows the world

It would have been a dream evening even without the announcement, but in the interval of Le Comte Ory last night, broadcast and cinecast all over the planet, Juan Diego Florez told us that his son, Leandro, was born just 35 minutes before curtain-up. JDF offers the following information on his website:

Our son Leandro was born today, April 9th 2011, at 12:22 New York time, with 3.77 kg (8 pounds 5 ounces) and 53.34 cms (21 inches). We thank all fans around the world for your good wishes 
Julia and Juan Diego

Leandro was born at their New York apartment, in water; a natural unmedicated birth. Juan Diego received the baby and placed him on Julia's chest. Then Juan Diego had to rush to the Metropolitan Opera House for his Comte Ory performance, which began at 13:00. The performance was broadcast in cinemas around the world, and although he had a sleepless night, the performance was a success.

As for Le Comte Ory, it's a piece of such whimsical Franco-Italian perfection that it's hard to believe the Met has never EVER done it before. I caught it on Radio 3 from the comfort of my study as the local cinecast was sold out and I had fond hopes - which foundered at once, of course - of continuing to write while listening. The singing was way too good for that. The story is as silly as all the pictures of Florez dressed as a nun suggest, but the three leading roles, Countess Adele, Comte Ory and the page Isolier, sound dazzlingly impressive at the best of times. And when they're respectively Diana Damrau, JDF and Joyce DiDonato, who could ask for anything more? 

Comic opera generally gets far less credit than serious, but personally I'd pick Ory over Trovatore any day, any year. It's more difficult to write (and perform) good comedy than wonky melodrama - even that Hollywood screenwriting guru Robert McKee says that comedy is the hardest thing - and though the Ory story isn't precisely subtle, Rossini paints it with the lightest of musical brushes. Several times it spills over into pure genius and it's never less than joyous. The three-in-a-bed-romp, as the Sun might have called the last trio, sounds as pure as can be: one of those all-too-brief ensembles that can hold you rapt, outside and beyond time, with scrunchy harmonies worthy of Mozart on a good day. On stage just then, Adele thinks Ory is a nun, Ory thinks Isolier is Adele, and Isolier is a trouser-role so is conveniently masculine and feminine at the same time, so...well, work it out. They are all saved by the bell.

Here's the coda to the trio:

The Met has been remarkably slow on the uptake with this one, and thank goodness Florez, 38, is doing it so visibly now; that high tenor lead cries out for him (so to speak). Glyndebourne gave a terrific production as long ago as 1997, and it's on video, with the lovely Annick Massis as Adele. ENO staged it back in the 1970s; I don't remember who sang, but I do remember my father - an oddly severe character with a secret penchant for Carry On films - positively rolling in the aisles. 

If you're within reach of the Curzon Mayfair, you can dash in for the 'encore' showing this morning at 11.30. But it was perfect just as it was here last night, audio only, on the airwaves, and I'm happy to stick with the memory. That's how we learn to stop worrying and love bel canto. Meanwhile the proud papa - interviewed by Renee Fleming in the interval, said he was ecstatically happy and sent love messages over the airwaves first to Julia, then to Peru, then the rest of South America, then the blighted Japan...