Juan Diego Florez • Carnegie Hall • November 18 2018

Florez took the stage with a somewhat tense and nervous energy, all bright flickering eyes and tight jaws, slightly feisty, ready to pounce. He treats the stage like a Roman circus that the enters to conquer. What I sense from him is that this is someone who worked very, veryhard to overcome resistance and doubt. One feels that he is out there to prove somethingrather than to discover something. Very driven, assertive in his at times overly emphatic body language, going repeatedly for the grand operatic gesture that’s only effective in small doses. It was interesting to see that he appeared in fact more at the top of the second act than at the first.  He must have instinctively felt that, despite the encouraging and warm responses from the audience, he had not quite broken the ice yet. At some point, he even talked about how hard it was to portray happy and sad characters in rapid succession. His physical characterizations are indeed often a bit vague, relying on his winning looks and obvious gestures. Beautiful voice with phenomenal breath control and astounding pianissimi. A highlight was Massenet’s En fermant les yeux, where he let go pretension, was at ease and understated, allowing an unexpected, pure tenderness to shape his performance. But he did not really hit his stride until his first encore (There were 8!). For his first encore, he brought out a guitar and, accompanying himself, sang Besame Mucho, and became a latin pop matinee idol. He finally relaxed and allowed himself, to play. That’s when he revealed genuine and spontaneous charm, reacting to calls from the audience.  The burden of fulfilling expectations had at last lifted off his shoulders and now he could finally indulge in the hot bath of the public’s adoration, adding as much bubbly foam he wanted and splashing about, as if the parents had left the building.  In a way, it felt that only now the real concert was beginning. I couldn’t help wondering how he might have come to this earlier in the night, yet felt grateful that it happened.