April 2, 5, 8, 11, 17, 20, 23, 27, 30
Cornelius Meister, Conductor
I am impatient. I can be difficult, I can be demanding. I am very self-critical and competitive with myself,” admits Juan Diego Florez, the 43-year-old Peruvian tenor who features as the star soloist at this year’s Last Night of the BBC Proms.
He makes himself sound rather daunting, but I can’t recognise the grim picture he paints – in the course of our several encounters, he’s always seemed notably equable and accommodating. Dark slender, and athletic, he looks like a tennis star – and is indeed very keen on the game.
For the Last Night of the Proms, he promises to be in relaxed party mood; he has a little surprise up his sleeve, but despite a mischievous grin, he’s not even hinting what it will be. The traditional flag-waving aspect, unusually intense this year as Remain voters threaten to sabotage the event with EU flags, won’t bother him. “I am just there to make music. I plan to enjoy myself,” he says. And after he’s delighted the audience in the Albert Hall, he will nip across Kensington Gore and serenade the outdoor crowd at the Prom in the Park, alongside the likes of All Saints and Frankie Valli.
Nothing about either event will come as much of a novelty to him– he’s sung at the Proms, both indoor and outdoor, before, as well as filling the Albert Hall for a solo recital earlier this year. And London audiences are close to his heart – he’s been singing to them for almost twenty years now, and never had a bad experience with them.
The Royal Opera House in particular has been the scene of some of his great triumphs, most recently his impassioned interpretation of Gluck’s Orphée last autumn, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner. “Covent Garden is very special to me, and I’m not just saying that to be polite. People who work there are both friendly and efficient, and you can get a good job done. It is a great atmosphere to work in.”
For the Last Night, he will deliver two of the operatic showpieces that made his reputation in the early part of his career, and which he must now have sung hundreds of times. Is he secretly a bit tired of mechanically hitting the nine top Cs in Tonio’s aria from Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment or running seamlessly through the ratatatat coloratura of Ramiro’s aria from Rossini’s La Cenerentola ? Not at all, he insists, because “it’s healthy exercise for the voice and I am very competitive with myself, so I always want it to be better than it was the last time.”
Read the entire feature via the Telegraph