If anything, this recital shows Florez to be in even better voice than in his last album "Voce d'Italia: Arias for Rubini" (see my review). Despite the beauty of Florez' singing there, a few top notes showed signs of strain; here, the voice is more easily produced, sweeter and more characterful than ever before. For me, the plum item is his newly minted account off that old warhorse "Una furtive lagrima"; he sings with power and delicacy, managing some heart-stopping diminuendi and maintaining seamless legato. The Italian version of Florez' calling card aria with the nine high C's is as thrilling as ever and the more interesting for being less frequently heard. The choice of repertoire is judicious: a preponderance of Donizetti but a very varied selection of his arias, then two excerpts from Rossini and one by Bellini ; five are solo arias and the other five are each with a different "guest artist". I cannot, in all honesty, say that I am as impressed by any of those five other singers as I am by Florez himself; Netrebko sounds very like Freni at the beginning of her "Puritani" duet but the voice lacks the older artist's delicacy and nuance - fine singer though she is. The Polish baritone Kwiecien and Patrizia Ciofi are both fine, if nothing special; Ciofi's attractively smoky, slightly breathy voice combines well with Florez in the romantic duet from "Linda di Chamonix", and Kwiecien sings ably but ordinarily, with a rather lumpen sound and a wide vibrato. I positively disliked Daniella Barcellona's rather clumsy, laboured singing as the Marchesa Melibea in the duet from "Il Viaggio a Reims" - her voice really does not match his. Placido Domingo, in the "bonus aria" from Rossini's "Otello" proves that, despite a little straining, his voice is a miracle of preservation. Perhaps inviting distinguished guest artists is a confirmation of Florez' standing in the operatic world today and perhaps Decca wished to avoid the charge of monotony which a whole disc of one beautiful, but intense tenor voice can provoke, but the fact remains that the raison d'etre of this recital is Florez himself, and the solo items are the best things on this CD.
The bonus DVD has a not very interesting talk by Florez about bel canto in general, his fellow singers, and the specific repertoire he has chosen to sing on this disc, then two excerpts from RAI and Zurich productions - the former being, of course, THAT aria - this time in French, the second being, rather disappointingly, only the recitative before the big romantic aria "Cerchero lontana terra", not the aria itself. However, rather confusingly, the cover states that we are to have the aria, too -but it doesn't feature on my copy! (I would be interested to know if other purchasers' DVD's have the same flaw - or maybe it's just my copy. I don't think so, as the aria is not mentioned on the menu.) The trailers for the DVD's are quite good for giving a flavour of their quality, giving quite extended snippets, but it's the recital I wanted, not the extra fripperies.