When Juan Diego Florez made his Metropolitan Opera debut in The Barber of Seville in January, the audience went wild. And why not? This 29-year-old tenor from Peru is a tall, dark, curly-haired matinée-idol type who eats up the stage. And it was abundantly clear that night why Rossini, back in 1816, had originally named his most popular opera Almaviva. For generations the long, florid, insanely difficult aria for Count Almaviva that ends the opera had been omitted for want of a tenor who could sing it properly. Now here was one who could. The rapid scales, tricky ornaments, rhythmic flourishes, leaps into the stratosphere: Everything not only fell exactly into place, but the voice sounded gorgeous and the musicianship that propelled it was impeccable.
Flórez's record label, Decca, understandably markets its new star perched rakishly on a motor scooter or standing with arms outstretched toward his invisible adoring fans. Despite all that, there is little indication that there will soon be a fourth tenor eager to make millions singing trash in sports arenas. Flórez will reprise his role in The Barber of Seville this summer at La Scala, in Milan (through July 20), and he's already in high demand as a specialist in the Italian bel-canto repertory, where his light, flexible tenor sounds happiest, and that seems to content him—for now.