Tenor Piotr Beczała (pronounced beh•TCHA•wa) spent the noon hour Tuesday, Sept. 17, speaking to Examiner.com about his 21-year career on the lyric stage and his soon-to-be 21-year marriage to mezzo-soprano Katarzyna. The dressing room was chilly, and he deftly adjusted thermostat and windows before sitting on the piano bench.
The tenor is poised for Metropolitan Opera’s 2013-14 gala season opening Monday, Sept. 23, at 6:30 p.m. He plays Lenski, the doomed friend of the title character, Eugene Onegin, in Tchaikovsky’s beloved opera—and the one most-performed outside Russia.
With costars soprano Anna Netrebko (Tatyana) and baritone Mariusz Kwiecień (Onegin), Piotr Beczała is sure to dazzle a glittering audience in a new luxurious production staged by Deborah Warner, who is recuperating from surgery and has entrusted directorial duties to longtime collaborator, the actress and director Fiona Shaw.
The lyric tenor and his wife, natives of Poland, hold Swiss citizenship. They keep homes in both countries, in New York and in Vienna. “Really, home is something we have to create, wherever we are. We strive to set up house and feel at home any time we travel longer than three weeks. After the run of Lenski performances, we head to Milan for two months, where we will try to create a crazy Italian home.”
Piotr Beczała’s job description does not include running, he says in a jocular manner, but he has done an operatic marathon or two in his time. Take February 2009, for example, when he starred in four Met performances of three operas in just seven days. Between two performances as Lenski, he was already slated as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s “Rigoletto.” Then a colleague singing Edgardo in Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” fell sick and withdrew. As “the Met’s current [go-to] lyric tenor, Piotr Beczala” stepped in. (“The New York Observer,” Sept. 10, 2013) “As a favour to [General Director] Peter Gelb, I agreed to replace Rolando Villazón at the last minute, and everything worked out all right. But it was a very tough week.”
After leaving German repertoire six years ago to concentrate on French and Italian stage works, Piotr Beczała will again foray into his second language when he debuts a new role in Dresden in 2016: the title role of Wagner’s “Lohengrin” under the baton of Maestro Christian Thielemann. Other future roles include Verdi’s Manrico in “Il Trovatore” and his Gustavo in “Ballo in maschera,” a role already in his repertoire and which he brings to the Met next year. “Maybe also Don José in Bizet’s ‘Carmen,’ maybe someday Cavaradossi in Puccini’s ‘Tosca.’”
What about Polish roles? “Mariusz Kwiecień and I will do Szymanowski’s ‘Król Roger’ in 2018 in Chicago. It would be amazing if the Met were brave enough to mount this work. Mariusz already portrays the title role, and Roxana would be perfect for Anna Netrebko. But I don’t know if I could convince Peter Gelb to bring it to the Met. I’m just a tenor.” But even dearer to his heart are two works by Moniuszko: “Halka” and “The Haunted Manor.”
Things became too complicated for both tenor and mezzo-soprano to sustain separate operatic careers, so Katarzyna became his constant traveling companion and Web master for his Facebook page. “She attends all my performances, all rehearsals. She knows my voice very well, she is my best critic—brutally between-the-eyes honest—and she is my eyes and ears in the audience. She takes photographs of me during rehearsals so I can see what sort of grimace I am making in a particular scene, which is very important feedback. Not everyone in this business has the luxury of honest critics constantly looking out for them.” Sounds like a perfect partnership.
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