Not many singers could switch roles at short notice to play the title-hero in Handel’s Rinaldo at Glyndebourne – and even fewer are prize-winning breakdancers with a side-line in modelling whose extra-curricular talents have included advertising campaigns for Nike, Mercedes-Benz and Levi’s. In the context of the operatic and recording industries’ mania for marketable countertenors, Jakub Józef Orliński is not a run-of-the-mill commodity. The obvious potential for hype over style doesn’t really matter when one hears the substance of his singing.
During studies at Warsaw’s Fryderyk Chopin University of Music and postgraduate training at Juilliard, Orliński won numerous singing competitions both sides of the Atlantic. His first appearance on disc was last year’s ‘Enemies in Love’ (Ëvoe, 8/18) with Polish compatriots Il Giardino d’Amore and mezzo-soprano Natalia Kawalek – an all-Handel programme in which the young countertenor’s singing of well-trodden fare from Rodelinda, Tolomeo and Partenope led to my delight in these pages at ‘intuitive phrasing, sweet precision and sense of dramatic moods’, and the conclusion that he is ‘a talent to watch out for’. These musical attributes were confirmed by his fully fledged debut album ‘Anima Sacra’ (Erato, 12/18) with Il Pomo d’Oro, deservedly shortlisted for this year’s Recital Award. Alexandra Coghlan’s review praised his ‘unworked purity, the easy legato … this is a voice with a big future’. When it already seems inevitable that his stage career will feature plenty of Handel, it was particularly encouraging that ‘Anima sacra’ paid inquisitive attention to more or less sacred repertory by unjustly neglected Neapolitans (Fago, Sarro, Feo and Terradellas), Dresden court composers Heinichen and Zelenka, and Hasse (who straddles both categories).
Those eager for substantial Handelian fare can sink their teeth into Il Pomo d’Oro’s Agrippina, due for release by Erato early next year – its starry cast places Orliński’s Ottone on an equal par alongside Joyce DiDonato, Luca Pisaroni, Franco Fagioli and Elsa Benoit. In the meantime, another collaboration with Il Pomo d’Oro is ‘Facce d’amore’ – a presentation of different dimensions of male lovers selected from works by Cavalli, Bononcini, Alessandro Scarlatti, Conti, Orlandini, Hasse and others that will be performed at Wigmore Hall, the Palau de la Música Catalana and the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. Moreover, this season Orliński will perform four different Handel roles on stage in four different countries (Zurich, Karlsruhe, Rouen and San Francisco). Not yet 30, he is already an artist of significance. David Vickers
The Young Artist Award is presented in association with Nordoff Robbins