Jakub Józef Orliński: "It's all about the music"

Rising star of vocal music, the Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński was recently in Paris for the opera Erismena by Cavalli at Saint-Denis. A chance to catch up with him and talk about a year full of adventure after the incredible success of a video by France Musique.

Jakub Józef Orliński: "It's all about the music"
Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński , © Radio France / Lucie Bombled

Only 27 years old, the young countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński has made a sensational debut in the world of opera. Winner of numerous singing competitions, he was noticed at the Aix-en-Provence festival in 2017 after being named as one of the HSBC laureates of the festival's Académie. His career and fame experience a sudden rise in fame after a video of his performance of an air by Vivaldi for the radio show Carrefour de Lodéon on France Musique went viral. 

France Musique: Almost a year ago you were in France at the Aix-en-Provence festival to performErismenaby Cavalli. And then there came an invitation to perform onCarrefour de Lodéonon France Musique, a filmed performance which to this day continues to experience a great success on Facebook and Youtube. Could you tell us what happened that day? 

Jakub Józef Orliński: We had finished the opening of Erismena at Aix-en-Provence and the whole team had decided to go out to celebrate when I suddenly received a message telling me that Frédéric Lodéon's radio show was looking for a singer to replace a guest unable to come: 5 minutes to fill a gap in the show. I answered yes because I love singing. The following morning, after a short night's sleep, I wondered whether my voice would be in sufficient shape notably to sing a Handel aria. I therefore decided to sing Vedro con mio diletto by Vivaldi. Before the show, I asked whether I had to come in concert dress. They told me: "It's radio Jakub, you just have to be yourself and nobody's going to see you!" When we arrived with my pianist, there were various cameras set up to broadcast the performance live on Facebook. It was a very hot day, and so we were dressed casually.

This video is currently going viral. More than 2 million views on Facebook and over one million on Youtube. What has this changed for you?

It's crazy! It helped me a lot, especially with the social media side of things. I had this weird experience when I was flying to Nantes, and a woman recognised me on the plane. I thought: "Oh my gosh, you know me from that video!". People loved the clip because it's an incredibly well-done video. The sound engineers did a very good job and we look relaxed and summery, it's great. 

One of the reasons for the video's success is the way you are dressed. Shorts, trainers, an open shirt etc Do you think that this could be a way to renew the image of classical music?

Yes, and this is something I am trying more and more. Obviously, it is important to be well dressed, to wear a tuxedo when we sing in a beautiful concert hall. But it's also important to adopt a more casual look during more relaxed events. Ultimately, it's all about the music. The emotion and message we send is true. 

You represent a new generation of artists, young and relaxed, comfortable in different environments and skilled in various domains. Artists attached to tradition but who seek to bring new life to it and make it modern. Are you aware of this idea?

Yes I think so. You know, even a few years ago I was not a great fan of opera for example. It struck me as being too rigid, too stilted. It was not something that interested me. Fortunately, I was able to attend various modern productions, with very enthusiastic performers. They weren't only singing on stage, and that is something that I seek continuously. In Cavalli's Erismena, it was a real challenge not only as a singer but also as an actor and dancer. Of course, the music is the main priority. I therefore trained my voice so as to be fully prepared to sing onstage and to be able to do precisely what I wanted with my body. There is an increasing number of artists who work in such a fashion. 

What are your projects for the future?

I am currently working on several projects and am excited to soon release my first solo album, in October. It contains a variety of airs rarely recorded, if at all. It's a strange feeling to bring back to life these extraordinary works.