Saturday, October 03, 2020

Early Retirement

Mariusz Kwiecien

Damn: Mariusz Kwiecien is retiring from opera. The baritone injured his back several years ago during rehearsals for Don Giovanni at the Met. He had surgery, for a slipped disc, then subsequently had a second surgery that involved an implant between vertebrae in his back. He's only 47 and surely had a decade or more ahead of him.

I was lucky enough to see him three times, and hoo boy did he make an impression on me. He has an extremely beautiful voice and a truly magnetic, very sexy, stage presence.

First was San Francisco Opera's 2007 Don Giovanni, with Donald Runnicles conducting and an excellent David McVicar production. It was the most successful production of this opera I have seen, because it took the plot seriously and didn't clown around. Also, Kwiecien was just exactly right: virile, sexy, dominating, a little cruel.

Next, Krol Roger, in the title role, a specialty of his, at Santa Fe in 2012. That's a pretty great piece, not done nearly often enough for...incomprehensible reasons, and Kwiecien was at the center of a superb cast (William Burden, in 1960s sheepskin, was the Shepherd, Erin Morley the queen).

Five years ago, he was back for the musically and vocally glorious Don Carlo in SF, which I happily saw twice. He isn't quite a Verdi baritone, but still, his Rodrigo was dramatically magnificent and sounded glorious with Michael Fabiano's Carlo.

So, this is a big loss for opera. A wonderful singer with a great stage presence, Mariusz Kwiecien will be greatly missed. Wishing him success in his future endeavors; he's going to assume the position of Artistic Director of the Wrocław Opera starting with the 2020-21 season.

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