The Baroque period was a time of extraordinary innovation. Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński is adding a whole new dimension to this old music to make it sound so new. The singer showcased his talents on January 31 at Carnegie Hall.
Orliński sang with exceptional grace and charm. He has been praised by Opera News for “the sheer beauty and smooth grace of his sound,” and from this performance, we can see why the publication gave such a glowing review.
His stage presence was so welcoming and inviting, which is not always the case with young singers. In some way, it's unusual that such a crowd came out to hear a countertenor since this is not a "popular" art form, yet it should be and is really very beautiful.
This countertenor has amassed a following in a short period of time, with major competition wins at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2016 and the Marcella Sembrich International Vocal Competition in 2015. Then in 2017, he was catapulted to international prominence when his poignant live performance of Vivaldi’s “Vedrò con mio diletto” on France Musique quickly amassed more than 2 million views online.
It's wonderful that he particularly performed works that were found in old crypts in Italy. Orliński spoke about this from the stage, how he hired someone to go hunting for manuscripts in Italy. Roughly half a century separates Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater from Hasse’s Sanctus Petrus et Sancta Maria Magdalena, but both men were celebrated opera composers who infused emotional expression and evocative tone-painting in the drama of Christ’s crucifixion. The stage was also familiar territory for three of the other composers represented that night: Fago, Schiassi, and Terradellas. The drama from their works can be heard in Orliński’s amazing voice.
Through the process of finding old Italian manuscripts, Orliński was able to select which music to include on his new Warner Classics album, Anima Sacra. Autumn 2018 saw the rediscovery of 18th-century sacred arias with the Baroque ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro conducted by Maxim Emelyanychev. If you haven't heard the album, it's so invigorating and adds a whole new dimension to how Baroque music is making a comeback of sorts.
It was during the Baroque period when opera was transformed from an aristocratic pastime to a universally popular entertainment. It is clear that Orliński’s powerful voice is dramatically changing both sacred and secular vocal music, and bringing the populace back into the theater.