Piotr Beczała

Piotr Beczała's website
(January 2012)
Since I wrote my last notes on Beczala, he has developed in a certainly unfortunate way. His remarkable modesty has given way, surprisingly quickly, to a somewhat artificial over-confidence (probably incited by some managing genius?) that makes him stress at every possible or impossible opportunity that he is “of course” singing all high Cs in key since transposing means deceiving the audience and so forth. Which latter is admittedly true, it just... seems inappropriate for a tenor whose high Cs are still as insecure as Beczala’s. True, sometimes he sings excellent, radiant Cs (at the Vienna Staatsoper, he did in Bohème, though the rest of his performance was pretty uninspired and lacking in emotional involvement), but certainly as often, he has serious problems hitting his “of course” C, notably in his new cheval-de-bataille, Gounod’s Faust (so the sound example posted here from Roméo et Juliette is by no means a mere unfortunate exception), and in a dreadful Vienna performance of Lucia, he even cracked far lower tones.
Robert Schlesinger
Piotr Beczała sings Bjoerling demonstrates and Beczala tries a high C
In RA Format

Piotr Beczała sings La Traviata: De' miei bollenti spiriti ... O mio rimorso
In RA Format

Piotr Beczała sings La Traviata: Un di felice, with Krassimira Stoyanova
In RA Format

Piotr Beczała sings Ingemisco
In RA Format
Traviata, April 23rd and 26th, 2008
Vienna opera lovers had recently three occasions to meet Piotr Beczała: one of the public interviews that the "Friends of the Vienna Staatsoper" association is regularly holding, and two Traviata performances at the Staatsoper (he had to cancel the first of the originally planned three since he had caught a cold). I was present on all three occasions because I was waiting for Beczała to return to Vienna for seven years now; in summer 2001, he had sung in Tchaikovsky's Yolanta at the Theater an der Wien, and it had been a really, really memorable performance, though his voice had been small (the Theater an der Wien is a tiny theatre, so it was no problem there), and I had doubted that he could sing at the Staatsoper. (He had sung three Mozart performances there in 1996, replacing two other tenors, but I had not heard those first Staatsoper evenings.) The interview (on April 22nd, 2008) revealed a smart, likeable and highly self-critical singer, who is intelligent enough to learn from historical records; his favourite tenor is Fritz Wunderlich, which is certainly not a bad choice for a mostly lyrical singer. Beczała told that he studied voice in his native Poland, and that he had heavy problems after receiving his diploma (with distinction) due to incompetent teaching: "To sum it up, I shouted", he said, "and I had a distinction, but no top." His first engagement was in Linz/Austria, and he obviously had a hard time there, having a more beautiful voice than the other tenors at that theatre, as he recalled, but the worst top of them all. "I said to myself: I look like Nicolai Gedda" (which is true, by the way), "and he nails all those high Ds, while I can barely hit a B flat. Something must be wrong." Well, to cut a long story short, he restudied, became an excellent singer (though the acuti will never be his true domain), a mainstay of the Zürich Opera, and is making an international career in the meantime. The first of the two Traviatas that he could sing found his voice still a little handicapped by the cold he had caught; he was slightly coarse, and accordingly cautious - and simply excellent. His phrasing was so outstanding, his musicality so far above the average, that he seemed to really step into Wunderlich's shoes, but without a hint of imitating him. And the voice has grown much, much bigger than seven years ago - it's not at all too small for a really big theatre now! I immediately thought that I wanted to hear him in good voice, too, and attended also the second performance. It was, however, relatively disappointing, Relatively, I stress, since those two Traviatas (also the second, that is) were still the very best evenings at the Staatsoper in quite many years, not only thanks to Beczała, but also to Krassimira Stoyanova and Zeljko Luciċ, both great and incredibly underrated singers (Stoyanova, for me, is certainly in the Netrebko-Gheorghiu league, without being half as well-known). And yet, Beczała in excellent voice did not do the same diligent job as when he had to be careful with his voice. I noticed some pushing a little here and there, or some overloud notes, as if he was still anxious to be really heard in a large theatre (for which there is, I repeat, no more reason at all), and also the phrasing was not as accurate as three days earlier. This was reminiscent of Bonisolli, somehow, who always gave his best performances when he was sick, and sometimes even when his doctor had forbidden him to sing... But I repeat, still a memorable effort, no doubt.
I wish to thank Helmut Krautschneider for the recording (Traviata: De' miei bollenti spiriti ... O mio rimorso).
I wish to thank Robert Schlesinger for the recording (Traviata: Un di felice) and review.
I wish to thank Vladimir Efimenko for the recording (Ingemisco).

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