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Where the boys are

When Norman Lebrecht is declaring on an almost daily basis that classical music is dead, it’s perhaps heartening that four of today’s prominent tenors have recently recorded what might be called fluff/vanity albums.

Joseph Calleja released an album of eclectic love songs, named (what else?) Amore. Hot on its heels is Vittorio Grigolo’s foray into an equally eclectic mix of religious songs, Ave Maria. On a slightly less fluffy level are Rolando Villazón’s album of Mozart concert arias, intriguingly entitled Mozart, and Juan Diego Flórez’s foray into the French spinto/heroic repertoire, named, naturellement, L’amour.  

These unimaginatively named albums each picture the featured tenor in an unimaginative glamour shot. If we were judging by looks alone, I’d say that Grigolo’s headshot is perhaps the cutest. Flórez’s glamour shot overshadows the left side of his face, and gives him an unexpectedly grim look.

L’amour finds the Peruvian tenor branching out from his usual bel canto repertoire. The album consists entirely of French language arias, and finds him venturing music associated with voices considerably heavier and more spinto-ish. Repertoire includes two arias from Werther, “Ah leve toi, soleil” from Roméo et Juliette, and most surprisingly, “O blonde Ceres” from Les Troyens. All of these are operas he has almost no chance of singing onstage. Other stuff is much more feasible for him—arias from Lakmé, La Favorite, Mignon, and La belle Hélène, for instance.0

When you hear Flórez’s voice and style in repertoire that’s a bit out of the way for him, you realize how much he’s one of those singers whose mantra is “find a few things you do well, and just do them really, really well.” By now we know what he does really, really well—he has almost unparalleled negotiating the fioratura of bel canto operas, and an endless supply of high C’s. He’s also worked out a stage shtick that’s not exactly acting, but usually includes some nice comic timing. As a result he’s been able to trek the world singing Rossini and Donizetti (and, to a lesser degree, Bellini) to almost universal acclaim. But when his voice is taken out of that comfortable niche that he’s carved out for himself, the limitations of his approach are more obvious.

His high C’s, for instance, are ringing and secure, but they’re also narrow and somewhat nasal in tone, without the trumpet-like ping of lirico-spinto tenors. Also, to achieve the effortless ease through the difficult coloratura, he’s kept his voice remarkably light and sweet, and his voice hasn’t thickened and darkened the way most tenor voices do with age.

The tradeoff is that he can’t color his voice in a dramatic enough manner for roles like Roméo or Werther. He sings everything with the elegance and grace with which he approaches bel canto operas, even when a more heroic, emotional approach is indicated. For instance, in Werther it’s all so pretty, but there’s not a drop of the dark, angsty sturm und drang a stage performance would require. “O nature pleine de grâce” sounds as sweet and sunny as “Ah mes amis.” It’s an interesting experiment but just that—an experiment. There are some lovely moments though—“Prendre le dessin d’un bijou” from Lakmé being one of them.

Calleja’s Amore is an odd album, mixing classic Italian love songs like “Ideale,” “Musica proibita” and “Non ti scordar di me,” with Andrea Bocelli (“Con the partiro”), Edith Piaf (“La vie en rose”), Josh Groban (“You raise me up”) and Tchaikovsky (“None but the lonely heart”) thrown in the mix. Calleja’s timbre is one of the most beautiful on the scene today, warm, vibrant, caressing to the ear. Sometimes he can look, and sound, astonishingly like a young Pavarotti. But he can be an occasionally stodgy, stolid performer in operas.

This stiffness affects his interpretations of these songs. It feels like he’s singing to a huge stadium, and the soupy, cheesy orchestral arrangements (courtesy of the BBC Orchestra) take away any sense of intimacy. I’ve started to realize that Calleja has a beautiful voice, but isn’t necessarily the most beautiful interpreter. For instance, in the execrable “You Raise Me Up,” one expects that Calleja’s version will be on a different level than Josh Groban’s, but give it a listen, and it’s every bit as bombastic as Groban’s.

Even in the classics like “Mattinata,” or “Ideale” where a simpler, more romantic style is needed, it’s surprising to hear Calleja repeatedly go for the huge ringing high notes and Les Mis stadium approach. As I said, one never tires of hearing the sound of his voice. But these songs are as much about style as voice, and Calleja has a surprisingly poor handle on the style. By the time the album chugs along to the inevitable “O sole mio” I was more than ready to move onto another “amore.”

Grigolo’s album of sacred arias has an unusually well-written and heartfelt essay inserted into the liner notes. The tenor explains, “I didn’t want to make an album of sacred pieces just because that’s what everyone in the classical world does.” He adds that he made the album because he got his start singing in the choir as a mere boy, and the album is a tribute to “all the people who helped me, all the priests who worked on my voice, to the hours we spent studying and practicing in those little rooms inside the chapel, and to all the incredible music we sang together.” It’s nice to hear a world-famous singer who hasn’t forgotten his humble roots.

He sings with an angelic sounding children’s chorus and the Orchestra Roma Sinfonietta in surprisingly tasteful orchestral arrangements. And Grigolo takes this project seriously. There’s a duet with (ugh) Jackie Evancho (“O Holy Night”), predictable fare like Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” Verdi’s “Igemisco,” and Franck’s “Panis angelicus,” but also some little-known prayers. Grigolo sings all these without the sometimes over-the-top showmanship he applied to, for instance, his Met recital.

And his voice, as I said, is the real thing—maybe not as plush as Calleja’s, but just as warm and more expressive and oddly, more musical. Whereas with Calleja one feels he’s content to just put his beautiful voice out on blast, and let the audience bask in the waves of sound, Grigolo sings like a tenor who maybe was told many times that his voice wasn’t as beautiful as ______’s, and therefore works very hard to create vocal effects. Maybe too hard—if there’s a weakness with Grigolo, it’s that he’s one of those singers who likes to play with extremes in dynamics, to the point of fussiness. But I expected cheesiness, and usually have no special fondness for religious music, but found myself unexpectedly touched by Grigolo’s heartfelt album.

If Calleja’s album is all voice but no taste, Villazón’s album of Mozart concert arias is the exact opposite: all style and not much voice. Villazón’s vocal crises were well-known, and the voice that he has now is very different from the voice that thrilled opera fans about 10 years ago. Even with the close miking and short album (barely an hour of music), it’s obvious how limited in range and scope Villazón’s instrument is currently. The bloom in his voice is gone now—it sounds shrunk and worn. He gingerly attacks high notes and often prefers to let his voice trail off.

But what style! Villazón was always an engaging performer and recitalist, and the infectious happiness and joy of Mozart’s music practically bounces off his voice. There’s none of that generic lyric prettiness that Mozart tenors often feel they have to adopt—Villazón treats each concert aria, even the small ditties (such as the opening track,”Si mostra la sorte”) as a dramatic piece. The pointed diction is a joy to hear as well—you can transcribe every word he’s singing. And it’s heartening that when he could be releasing Christmas albums he’s singing stuff like “Va, dal furor portata,” a piece Mozart wrote when he was nine.

A highlight is a dreamy rendition of “Aura che intorno spiri”—no, the old Villazón voice isn’t back, but you realize the musicality never left. Another delight is the brief patter aria “Clarice e cara mia sposa” that’s less than two minutes in length but so vibrantly sung that you realize how flat and lifeless most patter is nowadays. Villazón does patter like the old-fashioned singers, with the natural up-and-down cadences of both speech and song. There are some reservations—sometimes his trill sounds great but other times it sounds like an awkward chug, and high notes, as I have noted, can fly wild. But this is an admirable vocal and artistic effort from a singer that many wrote off. Credit must be given to the sensitive conducting of Antonio Pappano with the London Symphony Orchestra.

So you have four albums by four current tenors. If I were to rank the tenors by pure vocal health, I’d say I’d put Calleja and Flórez on top, Grigolo in the middle, with Villazón sadly trailing behind. But ranking by artistic merit the order is reversed—it’s Villazón, then Grigolo, then Florez, and finally, with a huge gap, Calleja.


  • Milady DeWinter says:

    What an astute, well-written review! Mille grazie. I feel like I can almost skip the JDF and the Grigolo! I do wonder about Calleja though. I like the voice, a lot, especially the “old-fashioned” quicksilver vibrato, which has been discussed a great deal (I am a fan of the sound, and quicksilver vibrators, I mean vibratos) but I have found that in live performance the tone is somewhat monochrome (not that there is anything terrible about that, some of my favorite singers have monochrome tone), and lacks big power at the top. Do you think there is any technical “help” with those “huge, ringing” high notes?

    • Poison Ivy says:

      No the times I’ve heard Calleja he has a big voice with a very ringing, solid top. The voice is a bit monochrome, but I don’t think he needed any help being loud with his top notes.

  • armerjacquino says:

    Interesting review, thank you Ivy. It may be worth comparing the Calleja disc to his earlier Decca recital, which I would say isn’t lacking in taste at all. This might be a horses for courses thing; I see no point in trying to sing stuff like ‘Con te Partiro’ and ‘You Raise Me Up’ in any style other than ‘big and vulgar’.

  • Cocky Kurwenal says:

    I’m pretty sure I read recently, in an interview with Florez, that he will sing Werther on stage, in somewhere like Zurich. He has also spoken in quite a few interviews about how much his voice has changed, become richer and darker, etc. But I must say I agree with you Ivy -- I think it’s remarkable for having changed hardly at all during the whole time he has been before the public, I don’t hear what he’s talking about at all.

    One small point on which I disagree with you -- I didn’t find Grigolo’s children’s chorus angelic at all, I thought they were absolutely lousy.

    • Poison Ivy says:

      Yeah I think Florez is actually a remarkable exception to the adage that tenor voices darken and thicken with age. He sounds almost exactly the same as when he did when he first came on the scene.

      Here’s a recent example of him singing Elvino:

    • oedipe says:


      That was a Jessica Duchen interview in The Independent, I think. Florez said he will sing Werther in two years time, first in Bologna, then in Zurich.

      Apparently, he is scheduled to sing Roméo in Vienna in 2016. And he will sing Raoul in Les Huguenots in a couple of years time at the DOB.

      • grimoaldo says:

        “he will sing Raoul in Les Huguenots in a couple of years time at the DOB.”

        • grimoaldo says:

          sorry, mean to put something else to that comment there but I passed out with excitement

          • grimoaldo says:

            no, I had better walk away from this keyboard and collect myself before I waste any more of La C’s bandwidth

          • oedipe says:


            Before you pass out and/or we are told to shut up, here’s one more: there will be a new production of Vasco de Gama in October 2015 at the DOB (though, unfortunately, with a French cast).

            • grimoaldo says:

              Yes oedipe you told me about the planned series of Meyerbeer works at DOB, that is great news, if it becomes OK to enjoy Meyerbeer in Berlin it will then probably become OK to enjoy Meyerbeer outside Germany, but I didn’t know Florez was scheduled for Raoul. I hope doesn’t change his mind, he was announced for Robert le Diable at ROH but then dropped out.

            • Regina delle fate says:

              Vasco Da Gama? Is that the German version of L’Africaine? I thought it was called Die Afrikanerin. But maybe that’s an un-pc title these days.

            • Regina delle fate says:

              Hehe @ you two flagrant Meyerbeeriens!

            • oedipe says:

              Vasco de Gama is the original version of L’Africaine. The opera was left unfinished upon Meyerbeer’s death and its better known version is a serious reworking of the original at the hands of the Belgian composer François-Joseph Fétis, who renamed it L’Africaine.

              A year or so ago, the Chemnitz Opera dug up and staged the score of Vasco de Gama, which is apparently way superior to L’Africaine.

              Full disclosure: I am not really a Meyerbeerien like Grim, but I do find the post-Wagnerian disdain for the composer puzzling and loaded.

      • Cocky Kurwenal says:

        Yes I think so Oedipe, but there have been others (Times, I think?) over the past year or so in which he has mentioned the vocal development issue.

  • Will says:

    Ivy, I really like your very fair and balanced reviews. This one really impressed me. I don’t know when the Villazon was recorded (perhaps you have the information on the CD case), but when I heard him as Lensky at the MET this season the voice, while monochromatic and a bit stiff, was adequate to the role and the top was functioning OK. He got a lovely hand for Kuda, kuda which I think came from a combination of good performance and sympathetic relief on the part of the audience that he can still manage a credible level of voice in a big house.

  • Maury D says:

    I wouldn’t exactly say Iopas is something JDF has “almost no chance of singing onstage”--it ain’t Enee. It’s just that he almost certainly wouldn’t, at this stage in his career, sing a one-aria role, right?

    • Poison Ivy says:

      Don’t think Berlioz’s orchestration in a big house is simpatico for him …

      • armerjacquino says:

        Yeah, you need one of those huge-voiced monsters like Ian Partridge, Mark Padmore or Kenneth Tarver ;-)

        • Poison Ivy says:

          I don;t know, I just don’t see Florez in the French spinto/heroic repertoire. At all.

          • la vociaccia says:

            You are absolutely right that he wouldn’t do well in heroic rep, but I think the point is that Iopas is a role Polenzani sang successfully, over a decade ago, at the Met. It’s like singing the steersman in The Flying Dutchman; you don’t need to be a ‘wagner tenor’ to sing it, even though it is in fact composed by Wagner.

            • kashania says:

              Yeah, I had the same thought as Maury. The orchestration in the scenes that Iopas is singing isn’t heavy. And the role is really all about that one aria anyway, which Florez would do beautifully. But as Maury said, Florez might not be interested in playing such a small role.

          • Regina delle fate says:

            Iopas is a light lyric role. It’s a cute thing to have included in a French album. I wonder how many top tenors have recorded it as a solo item in a collection of arias before… Not many I’d guess.

  • kashania says:

    Very nice review, Ivy. My experience of hearing Calleja in recital once was similar to what you describe. The voice was gorgeous and he sang beautifully. But it was all the same, with not much dynamic variation or any bold, artistic gesture. And the voice is surprisingly big considering how soft-grained it. I enjoyed the recital very much. The voice was glorious. But I felt that he could do so much more with the great instrument he has.

    • Poison Ivy says:

      I had thought that maybe the soupy orchestral arrangements and bombastic style were unique to this album but found some other instances of Calleja singing this type of music, and it seems as if this is the the way he sings, unfortunately. Very Les Mis.

      • kashania says:

        I should say that in the recital I heard, there was nothing soupy or cheesy. It was with piano and he sang bunch of standard songs and arias. But I was disappointed that he just didn’t seem to want to try to do anything risky or interesting.

        • oedipe says:


          • kashania says:

            That lovely diminuendo he does at 1:25 was precisely the sort of thing missing from his Toronto recital. I sat there, waiting for a moment like this.

            • oedipe says:

              The diminuendo is lovely, but he is totally unconcerned with what he is singing about. The character is someone who is despondent and on the point of committing suicide; you wouldn’t guess it from listening to this rendition.
              For those who are mainly interested in diminuendos and high notes and don’t pay much attention to dramatic characterizations, this is of course beautifully executed.

            • kashania says:

              Oedipe: Thank you for the condescension. I thought you were posting that aria as a counter-argument to my comment about his lack of adventurousness. Turns out you were supporting my argument. Anyway, I don’t think this rendition is without feeling. He sings the main melody with some pathos (and he does get a nice, nasal quality on the diminuendo). No, it’s not devastating, but it’s not unfeeling either.

            • oedipe says:

              Actually, if someone (hypothetically) has a preference for pretty singing, this is a matter of taste and thus it’s perfectly fine with me, just like the preference for certain voices and certain looks over others, or the subjective perception of good versus bad acting, whether I share these preferences or not.

  • armerjacquino says:

    I’d say that the arrangement of that Sole Mio is cheesy as hell, but Calleja’s singing of it is straight down the line operatic. Unsubtle and belty, yes, but who doesn’t sing Sole Mio like that? Don’t get the Les Mis comparison at all- there’s none of that mixture of MT belt and rock tone that you get from a Colm Wilkinson or a Michael Ball.

    • Poison Ivy says:

      I don’t know, I think a lot of tenors sing/sang these Italian songs with a lot more intimacy than Calleja displays. Gigli, Bergonzi …

  • FaustinaBordoni says:

    I must second Poison Ivy’s remarks concerning Villazon’s Mozart disc. It has given me many hours of listening pleasure. Villazon makes a strong case for Mozart’s tenor concert arias by singing them with exemplary style while infusing them with passion. The aria I keep returning to is “Misero! O sogno . . . Aura che intorno spiri.” There, Villazon doesn’t settle for technically proficient singing. He actually takes you on an emotional journey.

    If you love Mozart’s vocal music, get this right away!

    • Regina delle fate says:

      Singing them with exemplary style? Hmmm -- I’d say he sings them in a style more suited to Italian verismo, but I agree about the passion. Christoph Prégardien sings them in an exemplary style, and Gösta Winbergh, Thomas Moser and Werner Hollweg sound a lot more stylish Mozartians in their recordings of these pieces. Chapeau to Villazon for bringing them to a wider public, however.

  • Grane says:

    If classical music is dead, as Norman Lebrecht says, it’s probably because so many musicians are always losing their instruments.

  • Interesting review. Thanks!

    I am halfway through JDF and I am having some issues with it. I see that he is trying and I give him credit, but very little was done to bring the tenor to the style of the music. He sings it like he sings everything else and it bored me (and I am a HUGE fan)

    I have to say I HATED the Villazon recording. I got it and I listened to it immediately. If there was a composer that was perfect for Villazon’s voice is Mozart, he was a Mozart tenor even back then, so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on the vocal issues. Unfortunatelly, there is too much “style’ in these. He constantly breaks the line to create “effects” that have nothing to do with Mozart. He paints with a brush that is so small that he misses some of the bigger points, like creating nice long phrases and singing in them. Villazon was preoccupied with paying so much attention to the text that he forgot to pay attention to the sentences (if that makes sense0 and the recording is just a collection of shticks.

    For me, the release of the season is the one that has not been talked about yet: Larry Brownlee’s Rossini arias. Marvelous CD is every measure.

    • Let me add that is anyone is wanting to hear the Mopzart concert arias sung with great style and vocally secure, search for Gosta Windberg’s recording of them and Rockwell Blacke sings Misero o sogno like no one else. My favorite rendition of it. (interestingly it is not on youtube, so here it is from soundcloud:)

      and a couple of other versions:

      • Regina delle fate says:

        Oh sorry, Lindoro -- I didn’t read the whole thread and I’ve repeated what you already said about Winbergh. I don’t know the Rocky Blake Misero, though.

    • FaustinaBordoni says:

      To Lindoro Almaviva: While we disagree on the merits of Villazon’s Mozart disc, I’m glad to say that I, like you, am crazy about Lawrence Brownlee’s new recording of Rossini tenor arias. In fact, while reading Poison Ivy’s review, I wondered why Brownlee’s disc wasn’t reviewed, especially since Brownlee (like Villazon) focused on the music of one composer.

      It’s easily the most aurally pleasing Rossini recital disc by a male singer that I’ve purchased in a long time. Unlike most of the famous past and present Rossini tenor specialists, Brownlee consistently produces a warm, round sound--from top to bottom. That makes a critical difference, as Rossini calls upon singers to sing trillions of notes quickly and across a wide range.

      Brownlee sings the hell out of aria. Seriously! I can’t get enough of his “Que les destins prosperes.” It suits his sunny, warm timbre well. Its scales and fiendishly difficult hold no terrors for him; he tosses them as if he were singing “Mary had a little lamb.” What’s more, it offers many opportunities for subtle vocal acting, none of which Brownlee ignores. When will the Met mount “Le Comte Ory”?

      • coloraturafan says:

        I completely agree about Brownlee’s new Rossini CD. It is great. A pure joy to listen to.

      • la vociaccia says:

        Unlike most of the famous past and present Rossini tenor specialists, Brownlee consistently produces a warm round sound

        *sigh* Stanford Olsen never gets any love around here. THAT was a Rossini tenor with a beautiful timbre and technique.

        Le Comte Ory was done twice at the Met in the past three years, BTW. If they do it again, I hope they use Camarena, who is IMO a superior bel canto singer to Brownlee

        • FaustinaBordoni says:

          Note that I used the word “most.” I’m a big fan of Stanford Olsen. He always sang beautifully and effortlessly. I wish he had recorded more. I have only 2 recordings of him: TANCREDI and DIE ENTFUHRUNG.

          We’ll have to disagree on Camarena. Yes, he’s a lovely singer. To his credit, he’s more willing to sing softly than Brownlee is. But are Camarena’s high notes, coloratura, and legato actually superior to Brownlee’s?

          • la vociaccia says:

            Well you see that’s where we fundamentally differ. I don’t believe high notes and coloratura are the end-all-be-all of being a bel canto singer. Bel canto is like any other operatic style, you *must* remain connected to the character and the text. Yes, Brownlee has unlocked his voice very admirably and can go in and out of his range very impressively, but I personally lost interest in that after a little while. I don’t get drawn in to the story when he sings, and (this is purely opinion) I don’t get thrilled by him, beyond a sort of generalized “Wow he has very good technique.”

            Now Camarena doesn’t have the crazy extension of Brownlee (he might -he has done Le Comte Ory) and his coloratura isn’t as effortless (but it is still very, very good), but I prefer his more natural timbre, which gives him access to more colors, and allows him to treat each word as if they too are part of the musical makeup. I consider those qualities more valuable in a singer than whether or not they can interpolate the high F while lying down.

            This is a tenor telling a story

            This is a tenor singing a pretty song

            • Poison Ivy says:

              Well as a follow up to this Brownlee posted on his Facebook page a really heartfelt appreciation of Camarena after a performance of La Sonnambula. It was very sweet. He said he goes to see other performers like Camarena to be inspired.

  • FaustinaBordoni says:

    . . . for Brownlee?

  • Haimes says:

    Poison Ivy,

    As always an articulate, fair and balanced review. I have seen Calleja at MET in Count of Hoffman and I believe La Boheme. I enjoy his album very much, somehat sappy, but beautiful. I was somewhat bored by Villazon’s album and sadly agree with you that the voice has gone away. Long gone are the days when he thrilled and wowed the audience.

    I wonder what your take is on the cross-over CD’s from Natalie Dessay which I love and Diana Damrau who sings in German and English with her beautiful tone and colaratura capabilities. We last saw her in Rigoletto and will see her this coming Saturday in La Sonambula. Her style is just captivating and her voice always seems to be the top of coloratura finesse.

    Sadly we witness and heard Dessay’s last Traviata at MET and were simply very upset and shocked. We were privileged to see her La Fille du Regiment at MET when she was a cut-up. Damrau was miscast in same role. We did however see Dessay at Santa Fe many years ago in La Sonambula when she was a breathtaking rising star.

    • Poison Ivy says:

      In general I enjoy cross over and popera but I just didn’t think Calleja had the right style for it. I felt like he was singing everything as if it were “Nessun dorma.”

    • Krunoslav says:

      Dessay in 2004 was hardly “a rising star” anywhere but in Santa Fe.

      her stardom arguably began in 1992 with Olympia at the Bastille, but even before that she had sung at Geneva and Lyon- and at the Bastille in other things. She made big hits in Vienna in the 1990s, made a Met debut (Fiakermilli) in 1994 and returned as a star as Zerbinetta and Olympia in 1997-8. Aix and the ROH followed. Vocal crisis # 1 hit about 2002.

      By the time she did Amina in Santa fe, Dessay had the star clout to import her choice of director, who made the show 100% about *her*-- Elvino and Rodolfo were just projections of her mind and thus had no interiority, even in their solo scenes. She did sing it better there than in the Met’s horror-show staging.

      • ines says:

        The story goes, that her first diagnosis of the polyp on the vocal cord, that needed to be operated, was on Sept 11 2001.

  • Cicciabella says:

    Thanks to Ivy, I’ve been listening to JDF’s new album, which, to my delight, includes an old favourite of mine, the aria from Le Postillon de Lonjumeau.

    I think the Werther arias augur well for a live staged version. O Nature is especially fine. Over to the usual suspects to argue who should sing Werther, who shouldn’t, who’s the best, who’s a god and who’s a cockroach.

  • Milady DeWinter says:

    “But are Camarena’s high notes, coloratura, and legato actually superior to Brownlee’s?”
    —good point. Brownlee’s tone is consistently sweeter, less nasal than Juan Diego’s. And Stanford Olsen was a treasure.
    I think the fuss about Camarena is that compared to his Almaviva, which I thought was pallid, he is brilliant in Bellini. Better than JDF, and possibly Brownlee. Camarena’s florid technique is inferior to either JDF, Brownless, and Olsen. But I think, and hear, that he has has just an iota more of tenorial power, and that’s what makes him so thrilling in the Bellini. He should take on Arturo past-haste, and may even be a viable alternate to Hymel and Sypres in the Meyerbeer roles. In any case, they are a more natural fit for him than for JDF, who may be a bit stretched by Raoul etc.

    • Krunoslav says:

      I can’t ( with pleasure) hear JDF taking on Raoul or Werther. Too monochrome and nasal, not enough sheer volume.

      • Evenhanded says:


        I agree completely about Raoul and Werther. Both of these roles demand colorful voices that can modulate both tone quality and dynamics. Despite his well-known facility in coloratura, Florez is one of the most monochromatic voices among the current crop of “famous” singers. His recording of Gluck’s Orphee is absolutely terrible, precisely for the reasons mentioned above.

        Brownlee is similar, IMO, though he seems to have quite a bit more skill (and desire) to vary dynamics than Florez. And his voice is also a little bit more beautiful. Florez -- while undoubtedly an extremely accomplished singer -- seems unimaginative and unwilling to add much more to his portrayals beyond secure technique and plenty of thrilling high C’s.