Fit for Opera? Yes! So much yes and who better to open this series than Jakub (pronounced /ˈja.kup/) Józef Orliński, arguably, (no one would argue) the coolest opera singer alive. We bonded over a hot pink dragon fruit smoothie bowl on one of the chilliest days of winter talking about everything from airplane vocal hacks to mental health for performers and more. Jakub promised to take some epic photos in the vocal rest tee during his European adventures and he delivered. And never, I repeat, never has the Vocal Rest tee looked so effortlessly chic and useful and well, cool. Jakub shares a glimpse into what life is like being Fit for Opera.
Special thanks to HELENE PAMBRUN for these beautiful photos!
Jakub! Ok, first things first… breakdancing!?
Yes, breaking’!!! I know that it’s not a common thing for an opera singer, but I’ve always been an active kid. I used to skateboard semi-professionally when I was a teenager, also snowboarding and some acrobatics. So when I am not on stage singing some crazy Handel stuff, you can probably find me in the studio or any other place doing some breaking’.
You’re arguably the coolest opera singer alive. How did this journey start?
Hahahha thank you so much. I think there are more and more super cool opera singers, but I am happy that you think I am the coolest 🙂
I started my journey with classical music in an amateur choir when I was 8 years old. Wonderful group of people which actually affected my whole life because we became somewhat of a family. I truly loved making music with those people and traveling with them to music festivals or summer camps. I was in that choir 12 years and when it was time to go to University I didn’t know what to do with my life. I had so many things on my mind, so many ideas, but as I was getting the most satisfaction and happiness from music, I decided to try to get into a music university in Warsaw / Poland (there is also Warsaw in the USA, but I am from the European one). At that time I was a huge fan of the ensemble, The King’s Singers, and I thought if I started my vocal studies, maybe someday I would get to sing in that ensemble. Things changed a bit because I totally fell in love with baroque music during studies and I really liked solo singing because most of your work depends on you. My start was very difficult because I came to the university without any preparation before so I had no idea about harmony, ear training or music history. My voice also wasn’t in a good place so it took me a few years of basically living in my university to get those things on a bit higher level. I enjoyed it because I love to practice. In the meantime, I was working with a streetwear company, Turbokolor, and I also worked as a model and dancer/Acrobat for some other companies and clothing brands just to be able to pay for my studies and my living expenses. It was a bit of a crazy time but I have good memories from back then. So basically long story short, that’s how it started.
You mentioned a few interesting flight tricks for vocal care… What is the daily maintenance of your voice?
Oh yes! I travel a lot so taking care of my voice in all of those travels is one of the most important things. That’s why I have my own traveling set. It includes:
- Mask (Humidiflyer or Vogmaks)
- Noise canceling headphones
- Reusable water bottle
- Winter beanie, for comfort:-)
- Sunglasses (it’s easier to relax)
- Always have some cough drops on me
If it comes to daily maintenance for my voice I don’t have any magic tricks. Simple things just really work for me. I drink a lot of water. And I really do mean a lot. I also do quite a lot of physical exercises. Before I sing, I always start by warming up my body. Also after long flights, the first thing I do to fight the jet lag or travel tiredness is some breaking. It really helps me get back on my feet and gets me ready for action!! I also try to take care of what I eat. As they say: “You are what you eat”. I try to have that in mind!
I initially found you by way of the Vocal Rest tee and your ENT, Paul e. Kwak. #epicvocalrest
What’s your philosophy on vocal rest?
I think the most important thing if it comes to vocal rest is to know yourself. You have to know your instrument and have to learn how to listen to it. I rely on sensations and signals from my body. Then I know exactly what is good for my voice; if it needs rest, quick regeneration or a doctor. And what is best for me when I need a vocal rest? Simple:
- Sleep (a lot)
- Positive thinking
- And of course, “I am on vocal rest” tee 🙂
What’s the coolest place you’ve visited this year and why?
Oh, that’s a difficult one! I visited quite a lot of super cool places already, but as I am missing the mountains. The most beautiful for me was my visit to Toblach (Italy). It’s a little town in the mountains with some little lakes around. The weather was beautiful and the whole atmosphere there was just so nice. That fresh air and nature everywhere!! I loved it. Also I had an extremely exciting recording project there which is going to be released probably early next year. 🙂
5 things people wouldn’t suspect of you / an opera singer!
- Definitely breaking’
- I don’t really like wine and apparently, that’s an opera singer’s drink
- I worked for a streetwear company Turbokolor during my opera studies in Poland
- I can fold clothes very well and fast 😛
- Worked as a dancer/acrobat in many commercials when I was still studying in Warsaw
In what other ways does physical activity impact your performances?
I have to say that breaking is a quite intense dance form and it’s not suggested for singers to do something so extreme. But everything is possible when you know how to approach it. It took me some time to learn and analyze my body and figure out how everything works. Some muscle parts get super tight when you do for example a backflip or a headspin. But once you know how to release muscles and what is good before a singing performance and what is not the best, then you should be fine. I always start with physical activity before warming up my voice and because of my quite intense physical practice, I feel like I am much more free on stage. Not only does it help my voice to feel well and in control but also my stage presence is totally different, so I definitely think it has a big impact on my performances.
3 products or brands that are impacting your experience in a positive way?
- Headphones – I love listening to music
- Food in general – but big highlight on chocolate. I like to treat myself after work
- My backpack (Nike SB). Perfect size and I just have everything in it. And I really mean it. People are sometimes impressed what I have there 😛
Anything else we need to know?
Maybe my favorite flowers are peonies? It’s quite interesting information, right? 🙂 Also: They say that speaking Polish is basically a superpower, so I think it is worth mentioning that I have that superpower.
Where can people hang with you?
I am pretty active on social media and I am always happy to interact with people. You can find me here:
INTERVIEW BY JANE JOURDAN. PHOTOS BY HELENE PAMBRUN