A Night to Remember

April 22, 2008

History was made last night at the Metropolitan Opera House. Juan Diego Flórez was already having a remarkable first act in the first night of the new La Fille du régiment. But soon after he launched into “Pour Mon Âme,” it seemed pretty evident that the Met crowd would emulate their peers at La Scala and demand an encore (something that the Milan house had broken tradition to allow for the first time since Chaliapin in 1933).

After wild applause, not only did he do again what he had done to perfection once already — nailing in the process a total of 18 pristine high Cs — but he did so with enough variation in his stage manner and musical details to make the effect more than that of mere repetition. I have been unable to find anyone who can recall a prior instance of what happened next: a standing ovation in the middle of a scene.

Now, in such precedents, there’s always a danger of confusing opera with baseball and getting all worked up about “records.” And it would be especially unfortunate to be disproportionate in this case, since the production (already a hit in Vienna and London) is extraordinarily fine and the cast is full of first-rate performances that on any other night would be big news in themselves. But this is not a review, so I don’t need to be conscientious in that respect. (I trust many others will do everyone justice in print.) For now, I’m more than willing to grant the audience, and myself, the great pleasure of having been in the Metropolitan Opera House for one of those moments that we can impress or bore the youngsters with decades hence.

And, if you want to hear instances of the ease with which Flórez sings what has become his calling-card, look up performances of “Pour Mon Âme” or “Ah! Mes Amis” (of which it forms the second part) on this page of YouTube.

Video highlights of the whole production can be seen here.

UPDATE: You can now hear the actual “Pour Mon Âme” performances in question — ovations and all — on the New York Times site.

One Response to “A Night to Remember”

  1. […] already hymned Dessay and Flórez sufficiently here and here. And, about this time last year, I posted pieces on how the development of Chopin’s […]

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