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Interview with … Jakub Józef Orliński

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Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński, Grand Finals winner of the 2016 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and winner of the 2015 Marcella Sembrich International Vocal Competition, is undoubtedly a very promising singer.

The French audience had the chance to discover Jakub Józef Orliński last year at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, and will have the opportunity to welcome him for his first major recital in Paris at the end of the month (Salle Gaveau, 24th January 2017).

What made you decide to become an opera singer ?

I started my singing adventure as a little boy in a choir « Gregorianum”, in Warsaw led by Berenika Jozaitis and Leszek Kubiak. I made my first musical steps there. I have to admit that those (I think around) ten years spent in a choir made a crucial impact on my later career. Over the years I have developed a certain understanding of music, my feeling for it and experience how to express it with my voice. I wanted to be a better singer in the choir so I started to take solo voice lessons. I fell in love with the fact that almost everything depends on you, the artist. I really enjoyed practicing and setting up new goals.

My first opera was Dido & Aeneas by Purcell. I admire that piece and I had a chance to sing the role of the second witch. I was on my first year of studies, so I was really scared. But by playing that role, I realised that singing gave me so much joy and satisfaction that I wanted to do it for life. I just knew that I wanted to do it as well as I can. So I am still in process but everyday is getting me closer and closer to be a better version of myself !

In a few days, you will perform at the Salle Gaveau in Paris. Can you tell us more about the program ?

The program is built from quite well known Vivaldi cantatas and Handel arias. As this is my first appearance in Paris, singing a solo concert with such a great orchestra as Il Pomo d’Oro, we decided to do something that would be recognisable for the audience. I have a special connection with most of those pieces, because I performed them in different stages of my career / vocal education / life. I think it is a well balanced program and I hope that the Parisian audience will enjoy it as much as we are.

You are about to record a solo album with baroque ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro. Can you tell us more about this project, and about another album soon to be published (« Enemies in love ») ?

There are no words which would express how excited and happy I am about recording my first solo album with Il Pomo d’Oro. I admire that orchestra and having Maxim Emelyanychev with us, I am sure, we will make something incredibly interesting and musically fulfilling.

The program is quite unusual. Most of the album program is unknown. My friend Yannis Francois found for me forgotten baroque pieces. Forgotten not because they are not worth of being remembered, but because nobody had time and will to edit them to our modern notation. Yannis did it for the sake of that project. We will have 8 world premieres on our record. I cannot wait to start creating those pieces and to share those unknown masterpieces with a wider public. I have a lot of other exciting plans with that CD and not only the concert tour. I am going to provide some surprises later on this year !

On the « Enemies in Love” CD, I am a guest singer which is led by Stefan Plewniak – a great violinist, conductor and music director of the ensemble Il Giardino d’Amore. I’ve known Stefan and his wife Natalia Kawałek (mezzo-soprano on that CD) for many, many years. First of all, we are really good friends, so that is why I just love to work with them. We recorded this CD quite a long time ago (summer 2016). I can’t wait to finally see the actual product of our work. It’s a CD filled with one of my favorite Handel arias and duets. I hope that people will enjoy our interpretations of that music.

You made your debut in 2017 at the Festival d’Aix in Cavalli’s opera Erismena. How was this experience ?

I absolutely loved working on Erismena in Aix-en-Provence. I shared the stage with a great cast. All of them were very young, professional, talented and extremely willing to do something good. I really like to be surrounded by such a well energised group of people. Besides, working with Cappella Mediterranea and Leonardo García Alarcón was just amazing. I have learnt from them so much and most of all, I just had a lot of fun.

The whole Festival d’Aix en Provence is some kind of a magical place. There are so many incredible artists in one beautiful city. You can feel the atmosphere of the whole festival even in the early morning buying fruit on the market. I really enjoyed my stay in Aix. I really want to go back there, and I hope that I will return to sing something one day.

A YouTube video of you singing « Vedro con mio diletto » from Vivaldi’s Il Giustino has hit almost 300 000 views. How can you explain this huge success ?

I had no idea that the video will go that far, really. To be honest, I just jumped in for someone. We had the premiere of Erismena in Aix, and afterwards we were celebrating till a quite late night. During that celebration, I got an offer from the Festival to sing for France Musique the next day, because someone cancelled. They needed just like a 5 minute piece to finish the whole interview. I love to sing so of course I said yes.

When I woke up in the morning, I thought I made a mistake, because after such a celebration and premiere, I wasn’t sure if I will be able to sing well enough. Anyways, I asked if I need to dress up for the interview, but as a reply I got something like – « it’s a radio, nobody is going to see you ». So as it was so warm that day, I was wearing normal shorts, snickers and a shirt. When I came to the venue with Alphonse Cemin (an incredibly talented pianist), we realized that it was going to be live streamed on Facebook and that we probably should have worn something more appropriate … but it was too late !

All that is to say that our, let’s say very normal / casual look combined with the extremely emotional and beautiful piece composed by Vivaldi, made such an explosive mixture that people just liked it and shared it everywhere. This is the only thing which comes to my mind if it comes to explaining the success of the video. I am really happy about how much people liked it, but also it makes me incredibly curious what is the reason it got so popular. Big thanks to Festival d’Aix en Provence who gave me such a great opportunity !

Is it important for you to sing with period instruments ?

It is important for me to play with baroque orchestras, because I just feel a big difference in the tuning. But to be honest, I have also played extremely good baroque concerts with modern orchestras on modern instruments. More than the instruments, I would put importance on knowing the style and sensation of that kind of music. It is crucial and it makes the piece as a whole thing (singer + orchestra) a complete and united organism. Then, it is much more fun to perform.

What are your main projects today and which roles would you like to sing in the future ?

My main project for this year is recording the CD with Il Pomo d’Oro. I have a lot of other things to sing, but this one is definitely something that I was waiting for and working on for a long time. It took a lot of time to set up the program and make it all really polished. I just can’t wait to do it.

Beside that, I cannot complain. For whole 2018, I have many exciting projects. I don’t really know what roles I would like to sing in the future. I have already jumped over all of my dreams so whatever happens, whatever project I am getting, I am extremely happy to do it, sing it and perform it for people and show them my interpretation, show them how I feel. And inspire them the way I got inspired when I listened to live concerts when I was younger.

Which artists would you like to work with ?

It is difficult to name them all. Beside great conductors and ensembles which of course I would love to work with, I would mostly say that I want to work with artists who are truly passionate and have an inner desire to make something highly valuable artistically and something unexpected and a little bit out of the usual frame.

I read that you like dancing very much, especially breakdancing… is this true ?

Yes that is true. I am a breakdancer. I started to dance a long time ago (almost 9 years). I was always an active kid, so I was running around, climbing trees, jumping on rocks and trying to do some kind of acrobatic tricks. Finally, one day I decided to try breaking and I fell in love.

It is something which combines physicality with creativity. It gives you so much freedom. It’s art. I wouldn’t be in that place right now without breaking. In the course of years I have learnt so much about myself, just through that dance and travels connected to it. I have met so many people which helped me one way or another. Who became my true friends or like my crew – Skill Fanatikz Crew – kind of my second family. Breakdancing also has a huge impact on my artistic life as a singer and I am grateful that I have found something like that in such a early stage of my life.

Do you have other hobbies ?

I have a lot of hobbies, but unfortunately, beside singing, taking care of my career and breakdancing (not to mention normal life), I don’t have time to do them. Fortunately, there is still one which goes well with my profession. I love to travel, see new places, visiting interesting spots, meeting people, getting to know new cultures, make friends with those people and just explore. But most of all, I think I admire nature, especially mountains. I love nature in general, but the view of mountains covered in trees or snow has a special place in my heart.

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