Now in his mid-40s, Peruvian star tenor Juan Diego Flórez has enjoyed a brilliant career specialising in bel canto roles and especially those of Rossini, which no lesser authority than Plácido Domingo has suggested that he sings better than anyone else ever has.
These days he’s moving into more regular lyric roles, such as Massenet’s Werther, which he added to his repertoire three years ago.
Presenting the hypersensitive, suicidal poet in this revival of film director Benoît Jacquot’s traditional staging, he acquits himself honourably, though there are moments when a want of sheer power is felt: some of the climaxes push him to his limits, and even beyond; but he retains his strong sense of vocal style, and his acting, while artificial, is effective.
Around him the cast is decent enough, though there’s little sense of emotional connection between Flórez and Isabel Leonard’s tepid Charlotte – for the desperate love of whom he takes his own life in the final scene.
Jacques Imbrailo manages to give some backbone to her husband Albert, while Heather Engebretson sings prettily enough as Charlotte’s younger sister, Sophie: what is missing is real conviction in terms of the central characters and their complex relationships, and the result is that the opera fails to grip as it should.
Pluses include Charles Edwards’ sets, with their doomy romantic skies and stark, muted interiors. The orchestra plays efficiently.
Edward Gardner conducts, drawing together the opera’s wide stylistic range, yet rather like the production not quite managing to achieve the emotional punch the score needs to succeed.