While other opera singers try to mark their Metropolitan Opera debut with musical momentum, Jakub Józef Orliński stood out with a leap forward.
Piotr Beczała, Orliński’s Polish compatriot, always seemed to enjoy swing around a pole for a “Rigoletto” located in Las Vegas, and Elīna Garanča has certainly made her mark with it physically demanding “Carmen”, but opera singers are not normally known for their dancing skills.
And then there’s Orliński, 31. As a countertenor – the male voice with the highest range (think The Weeknd) – Orliński’s usual musical choices tend to age, like in the 18th century, 100 years before what some might call the golden age of opera. . But the hobby he’s known for is nothing short of modern: when he’s not singing baroque gems, Orliński’s break dances.
“In the station wagon, there’s a lot of freedom. And you can really do the same move as 100 people, and you can do it 100 different ways,” he told ABC News on a Zoom call. from Warsaw. “I feel like you become like a visual effect of the music you hear, which is really liberating, and I sort of treat it like a meditation.”
While his late 2021 Met debut came at an early age for singers, he came to the break late, when he was almost 19. He had always been very energetic and he found break dancing as a new outlet which was “an art”. form, but also very sporty.”
It’s easy to believe Orliński when he says he’s always been “super, super active.” In 2021, as the world timidly receded outside, he released an album, “Anima Aeterna”, which was accompanied by a collection of jewelry, recorded another album to be released in March, edited a short film to accompany this upcoming album, toured for nine months, made his Met Opera debut, prepared for his Royal Opera House debut in London and juggled it all with constant change. COVID protocols to keep activities safe, which sometimes included doing two concerts in one day to keep sold-out audiences at 50% capacity.
“But we were doing it because people were hungry for culture, you know, they were really hungry for anything, entertainment of any kind,” he said.
For her Met debut, Orliński sang in “Eurydice”, a new opera by Matthew Aucoin, with a libretto (lyrics) by playwright Sarah Ruhl, which tells the Orpheus myth from Eurydice’s perspective. In this tale, Orpheus loves Eurydice, but he is almost constantly distracted by the music in his head.
Orliński represented the music in Orpheus’ head, appearing as a mystical “double” of Orpheus (sung by Joshua Hopkins) seen only by him. He was like the mischievous and more expressive subconscious of Orpheus.
“Orpheus is like this normal guy, who just has this super power, which is me, his double, his shadow, ‘the music’,” Orliński explained.
Musically, Orliński was like a ray of sunshine mirroring Hopkins’ vocal lines, singing alongside him as if in an auditory illusion where it seemed like Orpheus’ voice was splitting harmoniously into two.
Moments after his first appearance, Orliński casually delivers a side kick as he crosses the stage. It was not part of the original staging.
During a rehearsal one day, he said, he was “having fun” and “did something stupid”.
“And the director was like, ‘Oh my God, let’s do it in the scene!'” he said.
Later in the opera, the friends of Orpheus and Eurydice celebrate their marriage with a repetitive line dance that combines movements of dental floss, the Macarena, “Shampoo” and more. In the original staging, the double of Orpheus does not intervene.
“And I said, ‘God, guys, I’m his doppelganger, I have to dance. I’m so glad they’re getting married,'” he laughed. “So I said, ‘OK, I’m going.'”
The Met also highlighted Orliński’s break skills with a video posted on Instagram of him dancing outside Lincoln Center which quickly racked up over 17,000 likes.
Orliński savored his first experience, but it also took time for him to believe it.
“For two years we’ve been living in this weird situation where everything can be canceled, literally a day before we go on tour or have a gig or a performance. So you never know,” he said. “So I decided, OK, I’m going to New York. That’s great. I’m going to rehearse, and we were rehearsing, but unless I get up and sing on stage in a performance, I’m not going really believe it’s happening.”
“So I got a first hit of ‘it’s happening’ on premiere day,” he continued. “It was a very emotional and really exciting day for me.”
Watching recorded performances from home can be “cool for a while,” Orliński said, but it’s not enough to fully support the inherent need for art and connection of people, and the audiences he’s met. last year carried a palpable “greedy” energy.
“And that’s why I feel like we need it. We need it. And it’s good to be creative and keep going and keep it moving, because otherwise everything can die. And then what We are going to be in front of our computers all the time,” he said.