Juan Diego Flórez was born in Lima, Peru on January 13, 1973 where his father, Rubén Flórez, was a noted guitarist and singer of Peruvian popular and criolla music. In an interview in the Peruvian newspaper Ojo, Flórez recounted his early days when his mother managed a pub with live music and he worked as a replacement singer whenever the main attraction called in sick. “It was a tremendous experience for me, since most of those who were regulars at the pub were of a certain age, so I had to be ready to sing anything from huaynos to Elvis Presley music and, in my mind, that served me a great deal because, in the final analysis, any music that is well structured – whether it is jazz, opera, or pop – is good music”. Initially intending to pursue a career in popular music, he entered the Conservatorio Nacional de Música in Lima at the age of 17. His classical voice emerged in the course of his studies there under Maestro Andrés Santa María. During this time, he became a member of the Coro Nacional of Peru and sang as a soloist in Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle.
He received a scholarship to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia where he studied from 1993 to 1996 and began singing in student opera productions in the repertory which is still his specialty today, Rossini and the Bel Canto operas of Bellini and Donizetti. During this period, he also studied with Marilyn Horne at the Santa Barbara Academy Summer School. In 1994 the Peruvian tenor, Ernesto Palacio invited him to Italy to work on a recording of Vicente Martín y Soler’s opera Il Tutore Burlato and subsequently became Flórez’s teacher and mentor.
Flórez’s first big breakthrough and professional debut came at the Rossini Festival in 1996. At the age of 23, he stepped in to take the leading tenor role in Matilde di Shabran when Bruce Ford became ill. He made his debut at La Scala in the same year as the Chevalier danois in Gluck’s Armide. His Covent Garden debut followed in 1997 where he sang the role of Count Potoski in a concert performance (and the first modern performance) of Donizetti’s Elisabetta. Debuts followed at the Vienna Staatsoper in 2000 as Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi and at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 2002 as Count Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia. On February 20, 2007, the opening night of Donizetti’s La Fille du régiment at La Scala, Flórez broke the theater’s 74 year old tradition of no encores when he reprised “Ah! mes amis” with its nine high Cs following an “overwhelming” ovation from the audience.
Flórez is also active on the concert stages of Europe, North America, and South America. Amongst the many venues in which he has given concerts and recitals are the Wigmore Hall in London, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in New York, the Palau de la Música in Barcelona and the Mozarteum in Salzburg. In a departure from his usual repertoire, he sang ‘You’ll never walk alone’ from the Broadway musical, Carousel, at the Berlin Live 8 concert in 2005.
Flórez is the possessor of a light lyric tenor voice of exceptional beauty which, while not of great size, is nevertheless audible in even the largest houses due to its unusual harmonic structure. Its compass is two octaves, up to and including the high D natural, the higher part of its range being particularly strong and brilliant, with almost no sense of effort, while the lowest notes are comparatively weak. The head and chest registers are perfectly integrated, with no audible break in the passaggio.
His breath control is impeccable, allowing the longest phrases to be sustained with apparent ease. The ornaments of bel canto, including the trill, are well executed, and stylistic errors such as intrusive aspirates generally eschewed.
Perhaps the most distinctive technical accomplishment is the singer’s total mastery of coloratura to a degree probably not matched by any other tenor who has recorded, and to be heard to best effect in his Idreno (Semiramide) and Corradino (Matilde di Shabran).
He was signed by Decca in 2001 and since then has released four solo recital CD’s on the Decca label: Rossini Arias which won the 2003 Cannes Classical Award; Una Furtiva Lagrima, which won the 2004 Cannes Classical Award; Great Tenor Arias which won the 2005 Echo Klassik award for the best arias and duets recital; and most recently Sentimiento Latino. In addition to his official discography, almost all his professionally performed roles have been preserved in radio broadcasts, and many also by television.
Juan Diego Flórez has been awarded the Premio Abbiati 2000 (awarded by Italian critics for the best singer of the year), the Rossini d’oro, the Bellini d’oro, the Premio Aureliano Pertile, the Tamagno Prize and the L’Opera award (Migliore Tenore) for his 2001 performance in La Sonnambula at La Scala.