Plachetka brings back a taste of Vienna
The Prague native appears for one night as part of the Dvořák Prague festival
Posted: September 11, 2013
Courtesy Photo: © Supraphon
Baritone Adam Plachetka will sing a mix of songs and arias at Dvořák Prague.
Adam Plachetka is preparing to spend the rest of his career as a bad guy. But before he does, he will sing at the Rudolfinum as part of the Dvořák Prague festival. The operatic baritone will be accompanied by pianist Gary Matthewman in a program that starts with songs before moving on to arias from operas by Mozart and Rossini.
Plachetka picked the program. "We wanted something on the verge of doing a whole Liederabend," he told The Prague Post, referring to an evening of classical songs. "But the festival wasn't sure they wanted a full Liederabend; they wanted an operatic evening. I wanted Lieder, so we met half way. We have in the first half Dvořák's Gypsy Songs because I find it is important to do Dvořák in the Dvořák Prague festival, and [selected songs by Richard] Strauss because I am a member of the Wiener Staatsoper for three years now, so I find that it is a part of Viennese culture that I can bring back to Prague," he said.
A recital has its challenges, he said. "The full opera is a more complex thing and you have people to cooperate with and you can tell a story, whereas here [in a recital] you have to create the atmosphere for every single piece and it ends with the end of the aria and you go somewhere completely else, so it is in a way more difficult but it is also … more intense," the Prague native said.
A recital also places the artist alone in the spotlight. "Opera can be forgiving. If you are not sure at a certain point you can act more, use the set. [In a recital] you don't even have the orchestra to cover you if you need to, so it is a very intimate, intimate event," he said.
With Gary Matthewman on piano
Part of Dvořák Prague
When: Sept. 17 at 8 p.m.
Tickets: 200-990 Kč
So far he has managed to avoid being typecast as a villain, the fate of many baritones. "I'm not the bad kind of baritone, yet, because I am mostly into Mozart and there it is normally either the funny character or the main character because in those days tenors weren't as adored as they are nowadays. So you had all these Figaros and Giovannis, and many pieces that were written for a baritone that are actually built around a baritone," the 28-year-old singer said.
"You can look at Giovanni as a bad guy, of course, but I don't think he thinks he is one.
In general I think I'm moving in that direction of becoming a bad boy, but I'm not there yet. As you get older, the roles turn darker," he added.
He has played a wide variety of roles. "At the moment, Figaro and Giovanni by Mozart [are my favorites] and I also love, I won't say love now because I haven't sung it in a while, Handel's Rinaldo, the role of Argante. And his first aria is my very favorite aria of all times. So it would be maybe these three, but there are so many it is very hard to pick one," he said.
It is not idle bragging when he says he has a lot of roles to choose from. Vienna in noted for the most grueling schedule in the opera world. So grueling, that he had to give a lot of thought when he was offered a contract. "I had no idea what to do. I wasn't sure it was a good choice… because of this really wide, wide repertoire in Vienna. You hear all these stories about how many people ruined their career there because they had to sing everything. And I really wasn't sure it was a good decision," he said. But he also became convinced that turning it down also wasn't a good decision.
The initial offer was for a short term. "And when I started I thought I would only do the two years and that's it. And then one month into the contract they offered me a two-year extension, and then again I wasn't sure if it was a good decision to sign that, but I thought either I could just do two years singing small parts because they won't be willing to give me something big if I don't stay longer, or I'll sign two more years, stay longer but get better chances, better options," he said.
"And so I signed and looking at it now it was the best decision of my life because I have learned so much … that you can't learn that anywhere else in the world because [the Vienna State Opera does] 50 operas a year, nobody [else] does that. I think the second biggest repertoire has about 35 operas, which is in Munich, then the Met plays about 25 to 30," he said.
"You never rehearse too much and you always have to be flexible, always have to study new parts. It keeps your brain going. I think for a young artist this is the place to be because you get great colleagues, the best conductors, the best stage directors and you can grow next to them," he added.
He was also critical of the way that operas are staged in Prague. In Vienna, a show is rehearsed and performed five or six times in a short space of time, and them the ensemble moves on to the next one. "In Prague you've got shows that run [sporadically for years] and that's it, and you almost never rehearse, and it sometimes happens you don't even know who you are going to meet [on stage]," he said.
"I find it very difficult for someone coming from the outside … because you can't rehearse, you don't get to meet the others and you just have to figure it out on stage, which is tough," he said.
After Plachetka's current contract is up, he will continue in Vienna but in a different capacity. "I can't stay a member of the ensemble in the same way for too long, sadly, so we found this sort of deal that I would be part of the ensemble but only for two or three months a year in Vienna because I always feel it should remain my home stage. But I also need to introduce myself to other houses," he said, adding that he was already scheduled to perform in La Scala.
"So … I'll only be there [in Vienna] for a quarter of the season and apart from that I'll be free to guest," he said.
But he is also concerned about overexposure, especially in the Czech Republic. He does about seven shows a year at the National Theater in Prague, where he started. "Plus I always do two or three recitals around the Czech Republic to stay in touch, but [I try] not to offer too much because then you sort of don't sound interesting anymore. And the Czech audience is not that broad. I think it is important to schedule it correctly. So that you are sometimes in Prague, sometimes in Brno, sometimes in Ostrava and you just perform a little everywhere," he said.
Raymond Johnston can be reached at
Tags: opera, Mozart, Dvořák, Vienna, Adam Plachetka.