CULTURE

Star Peruvian tenor in Athens

He is young, good-looking, one of the most famous bel canto tenors in the world and he will be in town for one night only. At the age of 37, Juan Diego Florez has not hit a single false note in his career. Growing up in Lima, Peru, in a musical family – his father was a folk musician – he started out singing in heavy metal and pop bands. However, he soon realized that he had been blessed with a magnificent voice that could go beyond Led Zeppelin covers. He made his debut at the age of 23 at Milan’s La Scala, a theater that has embraced him warmly, even breaking a 75-year tradition of not requesting encores in 2007 by asking him to reprise his trademark aria, «A mes amis» (from Gaetano Donizetti’s comic opera «La Fille du Regiment») filled with no less than nine high Cs. Florez belongs to a new millennial generation of lyrical artists, from which a few chosen singers have changed the operatic landscape and whose actions are devoutly followed by their fans. His schedule is fully booked until 2015, so Monday, July 20, will be a unique opportunity to listen to the Greek debut of one of opera’s rising stars at the Herod Atticus Theater, invited by the Thorax Foundation for a charity concert. The proceeds will go toward building a new intensive-care wing at Evangelismos Hospital. The concert, which will be conducted by Alessandro Vitiello, will also feature the ERT National Symphony Orchestra, and, of course, «A mes amis.» «I feel that I’m living in a dream, but, at the same time I feel that I have a responsibility as a new artist, so I can’t rest on my laurels – I am compelled to give it my all every time,» the award-winning artist told Kathimerini. «To sing at the Herod Atticus Theater, where so many important artists have performed, will be something I shall never forget.» His breakthrough came at the Rossini Festival in Pesaro, Italy, when the scheduled performer became ill and Florez took his place in «Matilde di Shabran.» «I was so young and inexperienced, and the role was so difficult,» he said modestly of the performance that propelled him to leading roles and accolades at the world’s most important opera houses, as well as introducing him to his manager, the Peruvian tenor Ernesto Palacio. Speaking about his dreams for the future, he says that, «as an artist, I’d like to continue to be able to sing as I do now, and as a Peruvian artist, I’d like to help develop Peru’s musical education for young people. Now, I’m working with a youth orchestra, and it’s something I’m very excited about. I believe music makes us better people.» Does he ever get nervous on stage? «Usually, I’m very calm. The only thing that makes me anxious is when I’m sick and I have to sing in public,» says the singer who, despite the «royal treatment» he receives, remains firmly down-to-earth. «I’m very lucky to be surrounded by people whom I trust, and who help keep my feet on the ground, especially now that all the lights are on me. They keep me on my toes, and inspire me to keep improving my technique and expression. I need their criticism and pressure.» He knows that in order to keep his position as the foremost bel canto tenor, hard work is necessary. «The ultimate goal is to maintain the voice you have,» he says. «When one or two performances don’t go well, then you begin to worry about longevity. Time will tell.» Tickets, at 40, 60, 90 and 120 euros, can be purchased at the Thorax Foundation (3 Ploutarchou, tel 210.722.2394), online at www.ticketservices.gr, by telephone on 210.723.4567 and at the ticket stall at 39 Panepistimiou St.