PIOTR BECZALA (Photograph by Kury Pinter)
You know the opera world has changed – for the better – when a tenor can be designated as a hunk. We’ve come a long way from those strutting little 2×4 bantams with egos and appetites so impossible the redoubtable Metropolitan Opera soprano Frances Alda titled her memoir MEN, WOMEN AND TENORS.
Leading this strapping new pack of singers who can now handsomely fit into the category of “a body with a voice,” to paraphrase Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s great ALL ABOUT EVE line is Polish lyric tenor Piotr Beczala (pronounced “BETCH-a-wah”), who stole the show at the Met’s recent revival of EUGENE ONEGIN. From his first entrance in Act I and swooningly romantic air to Olga (Ekaterina Semenchuk), he made you sit up in your seat the way every true star does and wonder “Who the hell is that?”
Tall, dark and comely and possessing a ringingly bright sound, as well as the kind of impassioned ardency no amount of training can buy, he was a dream fit in the role of the tragic Lenski. (He was certainly better casting than an overwrought Karita Mattila as the virginal, sheltered Tatiana, who played the role as if it were the last act of ELEKTRA.) His showpiece aria “Kuda, kuda” was the unquestioned highlight of the evening and old Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky himself must have been smiling down from whatever gay heaven he now graces.
Beczala received his initial vocal training in Kattowice and counts the great Sena Jurinac as one of his teachers. He made his debut at the Landestheater Linz in Austria and really picked up speed at the Zurich Opera where he started in 1997. He went on to triumph, singing the role of The Prince in RUSALKA at the Salzburg Festival 2008, and took Berlin by storm with his debut in the role of Riccardo in UN BALLO IN MASCHERA. He’s sung at La Scala, Bavarian State Opera Munich, Teatr Wielki Warszaw, Vienna State Opera, Berlin Deutsche Oper, Covent Garden, San Francisco Opera, as well as Bilbao and Tokyo. His repertoire includes WERTHER, FAUST, Alfredo in LA TRAVIATA, the Duke in RIGOLETTO, Edgardo in LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, Don Ottavio in DON GIOVANNI and Rodolpho in LA BOHEME.
Coming up for Beczala is the Verdi Requiem at Covent Garden in March; LA BOHEME in Munich and LA TRAVIATA in Zurich in April; DAMNATION OF FAUST in Madrid, UN BALLO IN MASCHERA in Berlin, RIGOLETTO in Zurich in May, and FAUST in Vienna in June.
I hereby exhort all true opera fans to flood the Met with requests to see more of this blazing new talent on our shores.
Just listen, and, as Franklin Pangborn so gaily said in Preston Sturges’ EASY LIVING, “Fall into a faint!”:
BECZALA, singing the greatest rendition of Lehar’s “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz” from “Land des Lächelns” since Richard Tauber
PIOTR BECZALA IN ‘WERTHER,’ BAVARIAN STATE OPERA