An interview with Piotr Halicki, a laureate of 2nd prize at the 3rd International Adam Didur Opera Singers’ Competition in 2012.
Seven years ago Piotr Halicki was a young singer, about to graduate, and very much determined to find his place in the opera world...
At that time I was focused on shaping my vocal conditions and gaining experience. I was a participant of Opera Academy (an opera studio at the National Theatre and Opera in Warsaw), where I had the pleasure to cooperate with i.a. Izabela Kłosińska, Adam Kruszewski and Dale Fundling, who was the tutor of Piotr Beczała and Elina Garanca. As a part of Opera Academy I performed in front of Aleksandra Kurzak and Andrzej Dobber during concerts held in the halls of the National Theatre and Opera in Warsaw and in many different independent off-stage projects. From those times I best remember by Benjamin Britten in the post-industrial space of the former Printing House of the Polish Press Agency in Warsaw. I co-created the project and I sang there and it was viewed by many opera stars. We were honoured to have i.a. Małgorzata Walewska in the audience. Conditions? The floor was covered with printing paint, the temperature was 13 degrees ... It was an acting and vocal challenge, yet unforgettable experience. I also worked at Don Giovanni in the National Theatre and Opera in Warsaw as a cover for Mariusz Kwiecień.
Apart from those projects you liked to verify you skills at contests. Many contests...
That is true. I participated in many competitions, because I was aware that they gave me opportunity to gain new contacts in the artistic world. And that was my goal. I told myself that I participated not only to present myself, but most of all I wanted to have access to the world that could give me access to possibilities for my self-development. And that was my attitude for the Didur competition, although the awards were also tempting.
Do you remember the repertoire that helped you win the 2nd prize on the vocal podium?
As a young baritone I choose mostly lyrical parts, bel canto repertoire. During that competition I sang the champagne aria from Don Giovanni, aria from Don Pasquale and maybe something from Eugene Onegin. After the results were announced, Wiesław Ochman came up to me and said: “It was beautiful, but why the champagne aria for the finale? It is only two minutes long!”
So the jury expected a longer performance?
It was evident that the jurors liked it, yet they felt unsatisfied, because it was too short. Another thing that I remember from the competition was that before my performance another singer came up to me and compared our experiences. At that time he was definitely a beginner at competitions, and now he is a very good singer. He started to give me some advice, suggested that I should not be stressed, that I should be myself, etc. It was a little bit funny then, because I had already taken part in many competitions, including international ones, I had sang concerts at almost all philharmonics (apart from the National and Białostok ones), for thousands of people outside Poland... but I pretended to be serious and I accepted the advice.
And what impression did you have of the competition itself?
It was my first contact with the Silesian Opera in Bytom, with the stage and the whole backstage. Many laureates emphasise the excellent atmosphere. During competitions I tend to be a little bit withdrawn, but let me stress some other aspects: great communication and organisation, full professionalism and competence. Since I can compare other competitions of that kind I need to say that the Didur competition beats other events of similarly high rank with the perfect organisation.
Did you manage to reach your goal, i.e. to gain new professional contacts?
It was after that competition - which coincided with my graduation - that I received an offer from the Theatre in Łódź. The director, Waldemar Zawodziński, suggested that I should take part in auditions. There were 200 people from Poland, but I made it. I sang the part of Scarpia in Tosca with Tadeusz Kozłowski as the conductor. Also then I met Ruben Silva, at that time the artistic director of the Chamber Opera in Warsaw. And he told me to audition for Cosi fan tutte by Mozart. It was a challenge for a fresh graduate who performed next to experienced colleagues. I had to work hard to keep up with them. But what a pleasure and honour it was to sing with Monika Cichocka and Katarzyna Hołysz. I worked with Wasyl Wowkun, one of the Jurors of this year’s edition, on Marriage of Figaro. Maybe I will have a chance to meet him this year during this edition? I spent five years on the stage of the Łódź opera house.
Now you help young singers.
In 2018 for personal reasons I had to make a break in singing. Now I come back, but at the same time I really want to help young talented singers. And even during the break I was not able to live without contact with the opera. Together with Marta Szwajcer I founded an artistic agency related to opera, film and jazz music. Let me repeat once again: it was worth participating and verifying my skills in Bytom, because it is a competition which really gives the participants opportunity to have various professional offers. And very serious ones.
Interview by Magdalena Nowacka-Goik