‘Dancing interrupts my performances – the music dictates the way you move on stage’

Award-winning Polish composer Jakub Józef Orliński, 33, has performed in opera houses around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, and the Royal Opera House, London. Born and raised in Warsaw, where he still lives, he will make his BBC Proms debut later this month, with concerts at the Edinburgh International Festival (August 3) and Wigmore Hall (September 12 ) After that. Orliński is also an accomplished figure skater and dancer, and has worked as a model, appearing on a cover Vogue Poland Man and Esquire Spain. He releases his eighth album in September.

Describe your late night Prom – mood, atmosphere, what to expect.
It is based on Over there – my last album – and in the same way it will reach the barriers of classical music. You don’t need to know anything about the music or the composers. It speaks to anyone, of any age. It’s about the purity of emotions. And in this kind of early Baroque music the bass line is really important. It’s very groovy, very relevant.

Is the presentation specific in any way?
Yes! There will be special lighting and costumes. From my point of view this is a concept – popalbam has a concept as it is. We are building a continuous story in these early baroque music pieces, like an art journal. I have done it 21 times in Europe and North America but this is my first time in England. And my first Prom. I will be singing the most intimate music in the huge space of the Royal Albert Hall. I am excited.

If you mix house with rap nobody will give a damn, but if you mix classical with something everybody’s screaming

When did you realize you were a roommate, able to sing as high as a soprano?
When I was eight years old I sang alto in a choir in Warsaw. After puberty I moved into a male vocal choir. You can hear that my voice is speaking quite low, so I was singing bass-baritone. They needed loud voices to sing Renaissance music – William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, Tomás Luis de Victoria. So we had a lottery about who would do the high parts. Me and my friend Piotr got lost – as we thought at the time – and started singing falsetto. I was 16 years old and had no idea, physically, how I made that sound. Then one day we had a workshop with an opera singer [the English countertenor Paul Esswood] and he said to them: Oh, you are an anti-tenant. I didn’t know what he meant. I wonder if he was trying to offend me…

What changed your opinion?
An indication that this was a true type of voice, where you use the edge of the vocal cords instead of the entire cords. As more is understood about the technical side, more colleagues are now around.

What was your childhood like?
We are a big family. I only have one “real brother”, but we grew up with seven cousins ​​and I think of them all as brothers and sisters. They are an important part of my home life in Warsaw. My mother is an artist and sculptor, my father an artist and graphic designer. There was a lot of music in the house, of all kinds. But I am the only professional musician.

Where did skateboarding and break dancing begin?
I was a very active child. Always jumping and tumbling, climbing trees, snowballing, skiing. I used to collect old bottles from the street for cash which I spent on trampolining sessions, teaching myself backflips. I was a figure skater at 14 and then a breakdancer too. Physicality and athletics helped me to be fit, mentally and physically.

And you still do it?
Definitely. When I sing in Paris I go to Centquatre and train with local hip-hop dancers. When I’m at the Royal Opera House in London I do my eight hours of opera practice and then I spend many more hours in the incredible ballet studios there. It is part of my life. I dance to funk, hip-hop, house, electronica, everything. It affects my performances, because the music dictates the way you move on stage.

You also do some modeling. You have to find raised eyebrows – can’t you be serious?
It didn’t happen because I thought, oh yeah, I can do all these things, but because as a young man I had to earn to go to college. I started modeling for money, doing fashion shoots and commercials, and I discovered that I could work with the camera. And it’s fun…

What is the idea behind your new album, #LetsBaRock?
Many things: covers of Baroque music, to be heard in a fresh light, played with piano, double bass, drums, Moog and vocals. It has been produced variously, and done at Church Studios, in north London, famous for recording Coldplay, Madonna, Blur, Paul McCartney and other people I admire.

You will be charged with trespassing…
I struggle with the fact that if you mix house with rap no one will blink, but if you mix classic with something everyone is into. I hope that we – the classical world – can be as conservative, and let loose…

Does that extend to phones in concert halls?
Yes and no. Depending on time and place. Fine for encores, not for recitals. If I’m singing at an outdoor festival in Poland like Męskie Granie, and everyone is enjoying their beer and sausages, a sea of ​​phones is fine. The beauty of live performance is you can pause, and focus. If I’m singing Monteverdi you don’t need to know what the words mean. The music will tell you. But if I see a phone light flashing, I think: Jeez, turn it off.

You are about to board the Eurostar to sing Vivaldi in Paris. Will you be listening to anything?
Definitely. Melody Gardot, the jazz artist. It will put me in the right dreamy mood for the tunnel.

• Prom 7: Late Night Italian With Jakub Józef Orliński is at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on July 23, 10.15pm, and live on Radio 3. #LetsBaRock was released on Erato on 27 September

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