A star is born in shorts, his pianist in flip-flops

A star is born in shorts, his pianist in flip-flops


norman lebrecht

July 17, 2019

The New Yorker has the story of  how the Polish tenor Jakub Józef Orliński became an overnight Youtube phenomenon, with 3.6 million hits for his debut video.

Apparently he never expected to be filmed and turned up hung-over and supercasual:

Orliński put on baggy shorts and beat-up sneakers, and rolled up the sleeves of a crumpled tattersall shirt: this was radio, after all, and it was ninety degrees outside. Only when he and his pianist, Alphonse Cémin, who was in shorts and flip-flops, arrived at the recording venue—a courtyard with a small audience—did they learn that the performance was also to be streamed on Facebook Live. It was too late for Orliński to change clothes, and so he sang just as he was—unshaved, and dressed as if ready for a day of sleeping it off under the Provençal plane trees.

Read on here.

Memo to singers: Black tie won’t do this for you.



  • John Sorel says:

    [[ the Polish tenor Jakub Józef Orliński ]]

    Mr Orlinski is a counter-tenor.

  • esfir ross says:

    That fabulous

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    What are we to make of this? 3.6m ‘hits’? What does this mean within the context of building a career? Hits on You Tube or any social media platform are for me in the realm of popular ‘culture’, I use the word ironically, and whilst I’m sure that this man is talented will being a social media star be enough for the audience that ultimately will give him longer than his 15 mb’s of fame. What an oddly disjointed world we now live in.

    • Marc says:

      There are two Orlinski CD recordings available, so he’s not only ‘YouTube famous’.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      He is featured in other YouTube videos and sings beautifully in all of them, at least all I have heard. YouTube has the virtue that artists can post things , or things can be posted, that are not the product of or beholden to the classicl music “industry.” Yeah I know some very unworthy videos and “artists” have even more hits than this fellow’s. And some wonderful YouTube vids have depressingly few hits, so while I love what YouTube has made available I agree that the number of hits can be an unreliable indicator of quality, in both directions. My old teacher Vincent Skowronski has posted his lovely recording of the Engel/Zimbalist “Sea Shell.” Way too few hits for the melting beauty of the performance. Ditto for the YouTube posting of Jascha Heifetz’s heart-stopping recording of Strauss’s An einsamer Quelle.

    • Nils Angmar says:

      – What are we to make of this?

      Not quite as much as you did 😉
      The ‘hits’ were on a video posted by the YouTube pages of France Musique, which is a French national public radio channel with a focus on classical music and jazz. While they are primarily a radio channel, they also often broadcast video recordings of recent classical concerts, opera and ballet performances on YouTube.
      In this case, a daily classical music broadcast, run by a cellist and conductor invited some younger and rising singers/instrumentalists to perform and the performances were filmed and broadcast. Voilà, c’est tout.
      I don’t believe that performing for a classical music radio program equals trying to be a “social media star” itching for “15mb’s of fame”, just because it was broadcast on YouTube. And I also think that those, who you ostensibly see “in the realm of popular ‘culture’”, are unlikely to lose their way onto the pages of a French classical music radio channel for long.

    • Bruce says:

      The pianist Valentina Lisistsa, whatever you may think of her, made her reputation with her YouTube videos.

    • Martain Smith says:

      Exactly! It’s ludicrous!

    • Bogda says:

      He’s been a sensation and a rising star for quite some in the world of baroque opera. One of the most sought after counter tenors at the moment, with or without social media fame.

    • Arts Marketer says:

      Social media is a critical adjunct to other marketing vehicles. It’s necessary to be visible. Many listeners expect to be able to learn more, hear more, interact, etc., via social media and other online methods. Welcome to 2019.

    • Someone says:

      In terms of career building, it gives him exposure he might not have otherwise received and opens doors for him more quickly. The video itself won’t translate into an immediate contract. However, it might intrigue a casting director enough to want to find out more about the singer and maybe even ask him to come in for an audition/meeting. And for a presenter, the use of this video and the story behind it can be used in the marketing/publicity of the singer’s performances. Don’t knock the power of social media! Most of the time, it’s frivolous. But when used strategically, it can be an excellent selling tool.

    • You Tube familiar says:

      Clicks on You Tube can be bought. There are (ro)bots doing the clicking. Anyone with a sponsor (doing the buying) can do well on-line. Jump-start.

  • anon says:

    No single person should have the right to have a good voice, good looks, and a good body.

    (I’d go see him singing wearing anything, or nothing.)

    • V. Lind says:

      Yeah. Meanwhile Yuja Wang gets criticised for every stitch she dons. Hmmmmmmmm………………..

      • Petros Linardos says:

        She has a fine speaking voice, reasonably clear English diction, but we don’t know much about her singing.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Lisa della Casa

    • Martain Smith says:

      I can see why you’ve chosen your nickname!

    • aNOn says:

      Consider this, for those who think my comment about “wearing nothing” is out of bounds:

      Ironically, one sees full frontal nudity in opera, but not in pop or rap.

      Ironically, it’s opera singers who perform nude on stage, not pop singers or rappers (not even in their videos), when it’s the latter that overtly sing/rap about sex in the crudest terms, and use sex and skin explicitly to sell.

      And Mr. Orliński would not even be the first counter tenor to sing nude on the opera stage, much less the first male opera singer.

      (I think it all boils down to power. I think opera singers are bullied by stage directors to strip down and have no voice in the matter. Pop singers and rappers, for all their posturing, for all their private selfies and sex tapes, actually control their onstage image a lot more than opera singers.)

      So, to say I’d go see an opera singer singing in the nude is not to be salacious or creepy, it’s a statement of fact about the opera industry today.

  • Ingeborg Baumann says:

    Saw him in June in a Händel opera in Frankfurt. He has a great voice and is very acrobatic. I pleasure to watch and listen to. In September he will have his solo evening in Frankfurt as well, nearly sold out already, this is fast.

  • Rob says:

    His success is powered by the planet of good fortune – Jupiter, currently in Sagittarius. Sagittarius his birthsign born 8th December.

    (When Mahler wrote that 8th Symphony in six weeks in the summer of 1906, Jupiter was in Cancer, Mahler’s birthsign.)

  • Caravaggio says:

    We will probably be seeing more and more sloppy dressing in European outdoor venues in summer. Because global warming.

  • Magdalena A. says:

    Is he pupil of the great artist Emmanuel Cencic? He sings Vivaldi owesome!

  • CJ says:

    The New Yorker must be short of news: this wonderful video is 2 years old!
    More recently, Orlinsky sang his hit again, elegantly dressed, last Sunday at the “14 juillet” concert, under the Eiffel Tower.

  • Mock Mahler says:

    I read on. “Orlinski has the accomplished performer’s art of making the practiced appear to be spontaneous.”

  • Gus says:

    He’s doing Handel at Glyndebourne in August, tickets still available.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    I couldn’t stop it because the music captivated me. Both the singer and the pianist sound wonderful. I wasn’t watching the clip. I was only listening. Enough with the visual nonsense.

  • Phillip Ayling says:

    Has it meant anything business-wise for the pianist yet?… or does the accompanist (Alphonse Cémin) just get to be part of the anecdote?

  • muslit says:

    My life has changed course as a result of this.

  • Emil says:

    Still not a tenor.

  • Charlie says:

    This video is 2 years old.

  • JPAULO says:

    Does anybody else not enjoy counter tenors? No matter how accomplished they just sound hootie and hollow and like someones aging aunt. Lol. I know that they are all the rage right now. There is just an overtone or resonance missing for me. No thanks. Lol
    He is very handsome and musical.

  • I’m amused at the pianist using a page turner to swipe his tablet.

    They make foot pedals for that.

  • Luigi Nonono says:

    And to think he dares to be a man, a male performer. Not a woman! The nerve.

  • Dorota says:

    A phenomenal voice and personality.