It was at Pesaro’s Rossini Opera Festival in 1996 that the young Peruvian suddenly burst on to the world stage when he stepped in to take the leading tenor role in Matilde di Shabran after Bruce Ford became indisposed.
They were searching desperately for a replacement all over the world, and finally came to me.
Flórez was already at the Festival to sing a small role in Rossini’s Ricciardo e Zoraide. He was 23.
Recklessly I said I’d do it. I had two weeks to prepare and I didn’t know anything of the role. I felt like a toreador who enters the ring without a cape. That was the beginning of everything.
He returns sixteen years later in the same role.
Now that I’m a father my life has changed. I’m more relaxed, I play tennis meeting Federer and Nadal. My wife is all for nature and organic produce, so meat has disappeared from my life. I’ve learnt to live without those medicines that singers abuse because they’re always worried about the performance. I want to stay with my family these days; you’ll be seeing less of me…
In fact he is at home with his family in Pesaro where he owns a villa close to that which was Pavarotti’s. His German wife Julia has been largely responsible for his life-style change, getting him to relax, lose weight, and go to the gym.
She was a singing student in Vienna and I was there for La Sonnambula. Julia asked me for an autograph, then went away. I rushed to find her on her way out, and asked her out to dinner, saying that all the cast would be there. It wasn’t true.
Now he is thinking of making the city his main base.
I will concentrate my activities in one city, and I think it will be Vienna: the opera house is the centre of society and sold out every day. Then I’ll sing in London, the Met, and in Pesaro because I live there during the summer, and I’ve decided to sing there every year. I took Austrian citizenship, but only with the agreement that I could keep my Peruvian one.
And his career so far?
I’ve never worked with Abbado, Mehta, or Barenboim. It’s sad but they don’t do belcanto. Many conductors don’t because in belcanto they need to accompany the tenor, listen to the voice, breathe with the singer. I can understand that it might be boring as they’re not the protagonist. However, I’ve worked with Levine, Pappano, Chailly. And Muti at La Scala where I’ll return in 2014 for Le Conte Ory.
Laurent Pelly, Luca Ronconi and Pierluigi Pizzi.
And favourite partners on stage?
Natalie Dessay and Joyce DiDonato.
What about the economic crisis?
We must learn from this crisis and wastefulness [in opera] must be stopped. It’s a pity that there isn’t the idea that opera brings money. Pesaro is proof, where this year they’ve sold more tickets than ever before. The situation in Germany is incredible where the theatres prepare in advance of a crisis, so when it arrives they’re ready to confront it. But you don’t need a magic wand: pay less and the balance sheet will be in order.
Is that pay less to world famous tenors? The interview finishes here.