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22 April, 2008

La Fille du Regiment. Met magic this evening. Brief notes.

Donizetti. Metropolitan Opera New York City. Monday 21st April 2008.

Dear Colleagues,

This was indeed a night of nights. The company has pulled out all the stops and provided high class comic opera without rival. In a French-inspired ‘geographic’ alpine production coming via London and Vienna this opera was raised from the relatively superficial to a level equal to anything the Met has done in my experience. For one thing, a rare encore was performed by Mr Florez (‘Ah mes amis’). This turned the already incredible 9 high C’s into 18. And none was clipped or insubstantial. A colossal effort! He then received one of the few spontaneous standing ovations I have seen at the Met (a colleague said it was the only spontaneous standing ovation he had seen in over 50 years of Met openings).

Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez is the darling of the opera world at present and has gone from strength to strength on the world stage adding Olympian records to his repertoire. These include the extra scene in Barbiere di Siviglia (others have attempted it but few succeeded so comprehensively). He sang, danced and acted his way into the hearts (and pockets) of the elite of New York, many of whom had paid over five hundred dollars for dinner, supper and premium tickets. His act 2 pleading aria was taken as slowly as I have heard it – moving, legato and effective dramatically, quite the opposite of the ‘rapid-fire’ act 1 aria with all the high C’s.

And he was in good company with the quirky and attractive Natalie Dessay as well as a fine natural comedy man, Alessandro Corbelli as Suplice the sergeant major. He sang Gianni Schicchi last year with great acclaim. Famous actress Marian Seldes played the Duchess of Crackenthorp with great aplomb. She was in Deuce last year with Angela Lansbury.

At the end there was a phenomenal ovation. The crowds screamed for Florez. Each time he took a bow it sounded like the stadium roaring over goals. This may be the most exciting opera performance I have seen since the Sutherland days.

It should be on the front pages of the papers, not buried in the entertainment section! [and it was!]

Andrew Byrne .. 1922 review of Toti dal Monti in the opera: