Adam Plachetka: I'm lucky, I'm already singing my dream roles

Adam Plachetka: I'm lucky, I'm already singing my dream roles

Adam Plachetka: I'm lucky, I'm already singing my dream roles
The famous Prague Spring Festival (Pražské jaro) is approaching, so we want to introduce you to the best Czech opera singer of today. Bass baritone and baritone, Adam Plachetka, has achieved a lot at the age of 35. He has not only sung in Prague, but also shone in Vienna, Salzburg, Munich and the New York Metropolitan Opera. In the course of ten years, he has sung in over two hundred performances in 30 different roles.
How did you spend and are currently spending your Covid time? How much has it disrupted your work? Have you managed to sing any nice performances at all? You were supposed to sing Figaro in Chicago and Vienna, and Conte Almaviva and Figaro in New York last year, did you succeed?
I am spending the Covid time in peace and quiet in my family circle. I still managed to do all the events you mentioned. However, since March 2020, professional life has almost stopped. I missed several performances in Vienna, and the festival in Salzburg and Paris is already cancelled for autumn. Also, most of the concerts I had planned in the Czech Republic did not take place. But some of them managed to be moved to autumn. However, it is difficult to judge what awaits us in autumn, and whether cultural institutions will not be forced to close again... This period taught me not to cling too much to plans and to take things in stride.

Did you have time to stop to rest a bit during this period to assess your priorities? Has it had any positive moments?
I say this with some shame, because I know how difficult the last few months have been for many people and companies, but for me, positive moments clearly prevail. After not really being home for ten years, I really enjoy spending time together with my family and returning to my roots. It certainly helps that we spent the quarantine at our cottage in the Znojmo region. The great outdoors have not been affected by the restrictions as fundamentally as cities have.

What did you manage to do workwise?
Except for the first month and a half, when we really laid everything off, I never really dropped out of the music lifestyle for too long. We managed to do broadcasts with the Prague Spring Festival, the Czech Philharmonic, the Czech National Theatre, concerts at Smetana's Litomyšl Festival and the recording of CDs of the aforementioned musicals with the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra. I was then preparing a concert in the city of Třeboň and a little surprise on the roof of the famous Prague Palace Lucerna. On Tuesday, 24 November 2020, exactly one month before Christmas, I celebrated the release of the new musical album Music Man. I also invited the well-known Czech actor and singer Vojta Dyk to the roof of the Lucerna Palace in Prague. After my past engagement in Vienna, I now want to do some freelancing for a while. But if all works out, I should sing Zemlinsy’s Lyric Symphony in early June.

When did you realise that you would fully embrace the path of an opera singer? Perhaps since you were a little boy? What did you do to make it all possible? And was there ever a moment when you could have done something completely different?
I decided on a singing career relatively spontaneously at the end of primary school. As a result, I have never seriously considered any other profession. Since I was fifteen, I've actually done everything to make a living from art. It would be difficult to name everything that was necessary.

What are the studies of an opera singer actually like? What's the hardest thing about them?
The biggest problem is finding a teacher who will suit you and guide you correctly. There are generally no quality teachers to spare, in addition, they have to sit down with a specific student, and it cannot be said that everyone fits everyone. I was lucky that Professor Luděk Löbl of the Prague Conservatory judged me well on a personal level and had something to teach me in terms of technique. Had I been given someone else, I do not believe I would be here today, talking with you.

You made your debut at the National Theatre in 2005, do you remember your first role?
The first role I studied was Micha in The Bartered Bride (Prodaná nevěsta). It is characteristic of the lower voice that it was the role of a father at the age of nineteen... But I only got it for study and it took a while before I sang it on stage. In the meantime, we had the premiere of Tom Johnson's Four-Note Opera at the Kolowrat Theatre in Prague, which was in fact my debut at the National Theatre. Before that, I had time to study Basilia in The Barber of Seville at the State Opera. I was lucky that I started directly in Prague and could work from the comfort of my home.

You have been a member of the Wiener Staatsoper since 2010. How did you manage this, was it hard to get there and how do you feel there today? A year before that, you made your debut in Munich…
I sang to Vienna in 2008. They offered me a permanent contract and I am very glad that I agreed despite my initial doubts. I gained incredible experience in Vienna and I consider the ten years spent there to be crucial in my artistic development. This season was my last in the opera ensemble. The farewell was all the more difficult because I did not sing any of the planned 15 performances in the spring. At least we managed to return to the plan during the final concert of the season, which we all really enjoyed.

Your first role was Shaunard in La Bohéme - what was it like?
It was amazing. To this day, I remember walking from the backstage to the auditorium during the first orchestral rehearsal and seeing where I stood in line as a student to wait for standing seats. I'm not a sentimental person, but this was a powerful experience.

Later you sang Melissa, Don Giovanni, Figaro… what suited you best? What roles did you like the most?
There were a lot of them. From Mozart's roles, I sang almost everything I have in my repertoire in Vienna. One unforgettable role was, for example, Rossini's Italian Girl in Algiers in a beautiful Ponnell production. It's hard to pick just a few. In the course of ten years, I have sung in over two hundred performances in 30 different roles.

What is singing like in America, you actually became the first Czech under 30 to perform in New York. Is it one of the highlights of your career? Is the audience there very different?
I don't like to compare individual engagements. When I say yes to something, I try to take it just as seriously as anywhere else. Of course, New York is important in terms of prestige and I like to go back there, but I probably still have time for the highlights of my career.

Your most amazing performance yet, I mean when taking all into account – great role, great colleagues, wonderful audience…?
Probably Figaro's Wedding in Salzburg in 2015. It was directed by Sven Erich Bechtolf and the production was so elaborate and well-rehearsed that I have never experienced anything like it before. The Trojans directed by David McVicar in Vienna were also great, but I had a relatively small role there, so I sat most of the five hours of the opera in the locker room (smile).

And what else would you like to try, what is your dream?
Hard to say. In fact, I'm lucky to be singing my dream roles. I'm starting to look into the Italian romantic repertoire, where there are a lot of amazing roles, but I don't specifically have any one dream role. I'd like to sing Hans Sachs in Wagner's Master of Masters sometime, but if it passes me by, I won't be angry.

What does the day of an opera singer look like on the day of a performance, for example in Vienna or at the Metropolitan Opera? What do you do all day, how do you prepare?
This depends on the where and when. I am not fond of any rituals because there isn’t always time for them. When I'm alone and have no other responsibilities, I usually go to bed after lunch and then get ready for the show. But when I'm with my family and I have to deal with some official things or other necessities, it so happens that one finds the first moment for oneself only when one sits in the locker room in the theatre.

What is life like at home with an opera singer, isn't it sometimes complicated, how do you get along, do you help out? After all, you both have to sing at home…
I am convinced that, on the contrary, it is an advantage that we both know and understand our work environment and schedule. Life in the theatre is very specific and I can't imagine sharing it with someone who had never been involved. Singing at home is a just a small part of it. Usually, we go to the theatre to study and at home we just sing in preparation on the day of the performance.

You live in South Moravia today, why? Do you like it there, is it also practical because of performing in Vienna?
We currently spend a lot of time here, because our schedule is significantly looser than during normal operation, but we do not have a permanent residence here. A year ago, we built a cottage in the region near the city of Znojmo and we return there whenever there is time. We have been brought here by a long-term cooperation with the Znojmo Music Festival. Proximity to Vienna was also one of the factors we considered when we were deciding on embarking on such a project.

Do you like vineyards and wine? Can an opera singer have a glass? Do you prefer red or white?
Personally, I enjoy a glass when I have time off. I prefer younger white wines, but I enjoy tasting all good wines.

Where would you invite foreign visitors, to which places near you in South Moravia, where do you like it?
I probably know the surroundings of Znojmo  and the Podyjí National Park  best from the entire Moravia region and I like them both. But other beautiful corners of our country surely deserve notice just as well, of which there are many. If you would like to make a trip involving culture, good wine and beautiful nature, you will definitely be satiated on your way to Znojmo.