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Last year, whilst the exhibition Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear opened at the lower level of V&A mesmerised the visitors, countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński returned with conductor Olivier Zeffman to the Raphael Court with Rinaldo, a flamboyant drama of love and a lot of fearless furies.

Review by Zoltan Alexander

Fashioning Rinaldo / Trailer © video created by Zoltan Alexander ZOLTAN+MEDIA


Could Handel’s Rinaldo, gender-fluid menswear, underwear, 18th-century paintings, contemporary art, photography and Tilda Swinton’s Orlando be put together under one roof?

One has to admit that Music & Art cannot be looked at and enjoyed in an isolated manner nor can they be segregated from other forms of art. There is divine energy when Art and Music juxtapose and interact with each other. The V&A has mastered that on many occasions. It is one of the rare places where fine art, contemporary art, fashion, music and design live creatively together.

Last year, the gallery at a lower level exhibited Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear, based on the reflection on gender-fluid creativity in men's fashion, whilst the Raphael Court on the upper level gave a perfect frame to a classical concert: a fearless love affair of Handel’s Rinaldo and other baroque and contemporary pieces. There was an undeniable metamorphosis between the floors and art forms and will certainly be an undeniable crossover between music lovers reading fashion, and menswear enthusiasts discovering operas through a young countertenor breakdancer.

“The world always will be with a male or female, the pink, the pearl and the perfection of your sex.” Orlando

Jakub Józef Orliński as Didymus and Joyce DiDonato as Irene in Handel's Theodora, The Royal Opera, London / Photo © Courtesy of Camilla Greenwell
A wall-projection at "Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear" / Photos © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA
Raphael Court V&A / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


Our visit continued upstairs in the Raphael Court. This gallery currently houses seven full-scale designs painted for the Raphael Cartoons, commissioned in 1515 for the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, where the first set of tapestries was woven from Raphael’s designs. The cartoons are considered one of the greatest treasures of the Renaissance.

Following his graduation at Juilliard, New York, in 2017, Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński, an exclusive artist on the Warner/Erato label, has quickly emerged as one of the most vibrant performers on the classical music scene. His sold-out concerts and recitals throughout Europe and the United States have attracted a new generation of followers to his art form. He debuted with Handel and Vivaldi, at Carnegie Hall, and another production of Rinaldo served as his UK operatic debut at the Glyndebourne Festival.

Following his immense success in 2018 at the Barbican, in 2022 Orliński returned to the V&A’s Raphael Court with internationally renowned conductor Oliver Zeffman for a one-night special concert, inspired by the exhibition Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear. The opening concert was also part of the Music X Museums series, an innovative collaboration involving a number of major London museums.

Music X Museums at the Raphael Court, V&A / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA
Jakub Józef Orliński and Oliver Zeffman at the Raphael Court / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA
Jakub Józef Orliński at the Raphael Court / Photo © Courtesy of Matthew Johnson
Oliver Zeffman at the Raphael Court / Photo © Courtesy of Matthew Johnson
Jakub Józef Orliński and Oliver Zeffman at the Raphael Court / Photo © Courtesy of Matthew Johnson
Jakub Józef Orliński and Oliver Zeffman / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA
Music X Museums at the Raphael Court, V&A / Photo © Courtesy of Matthew Johnson

Known for his pioneering spirit and inspiring vision with live and digital audiences, Oliver Zeffman directs the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields in this new series of concerts at the V&A, the British Library, the Science Museum and the Royal Museums in Greenwich. Music X Museums combines carefully chosen masterpieces of classical and contemporary music inspired by Art and Architecture, to be enjoyed worldwide in live and digital format.

After more than two years of such precarious cultural activity, it's more important than ever for different art forms and different art institutions to be working together to bring exciting cultural events to the public, in this case pairing great music with great art and architecture” Oliver Zeffman

Jakub Józef Orliński / Photos © Courtesy of Martin Jelovsek

The participating London museums, alongside the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Viking and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, seem to share the same vision.

The repertoire at the V&A, put together by Zeffman, included excerpts from Handel’s Rinaldo, Partenope and Riccardo Primo, as well as Cavalli’s La Calisto and Stravinsky’s neoclassical Apollo. Music by Lully, Stravinsky and contemporary composer Caroline Shaw has also been selected to reflect on the exhibition Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear and its core themes: Undressed, Overdressed and Redressed.

(left) Forest by Alec Soth, (right) Jakub Józef Orliński by Michael Sharkey / Photos © Courtesy of Alec Soth and Michael Sharkey




It all started in Hamburg when Handel began to compose operas, and towards the end of 1710, he reached London. Rinaldo was the first opera in Italian written specifically for the London stage. He accomplished the work within the space of a fortnight. The opera is considered one of Handel’s finest and was first staged at the Queen's Theatre, Haymarket, in 1711. It is a perfect remake, a musical patchwork, as Handel borrowed extensively from his earlier compositions, particularly those from his years in Italy.

The novel Italian singing style with its arias, recitatives and orchestral effects won immediate success. Despite the typical, negative reactions from literary critics, hostile to Italian entertainment in English theatres, the audience loved the theatrical effects, the mermaids, the flying machines and the live sparrows. Rinaldo went on to dominate opera in England for several decades and was the most frequently performed music during Handel's lifetime. However, after 1731, the opera was not staged for more than 200 years.

Jakub Józef Orliński / Photo © Courtesy of Dufaj
Jakub Józef Orliński / Photo © Courtesy of Anima Aeterna-Alicja Lesiak

Handel’s compositions invite singers to show off their flexibility and range at a daring speed. In most concert halls, operas are being performed in strict concert style with no acting, and although at the V&A there were no mermaids nor theatrical effects, in front of a 15th-century golden altarpiece of St George, Orliński gave a hypnotic performance with his unique understanding of the opera. Rinaldo is a flamboyant drama of love, witchcraft, and a lot of fearless furies, not to mention the pretty outrageous plot. After several unbelievable turns in the tale, the usual happy ending is delivered. It has a twisted Baroque style, although the opera crowd did not seem to mind it and rather enjoyed all that nonsense.

...and here we enter a magical world where opera meets film.

Location shoot of Vivaldi's Stabat Mater with Jakub Józef Orliński and director Sebastian Pańczyk / Photo © Courtesy of Jakub Czapczyński-Dobro
Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater directed by Sebastian Pańczyk with the participation of countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński and Capella Cracoviensis. © Released by Warner Classics & Erato 2022

At the V&A, Orliński perfectly mastered Cara Sposa from Rinaldo, supported by a period-instrument orchestra. His velvet-toned, though razor-sharp, voice was mesmerising and, on occasions, hit such heights that Raphael’s gods, angels and warriors of the Acts of the Apostles literally came to life. Zeffman’s direction was splendid, a divine arrangement, and Jakub Józef Orliński virtuoso!

Well-grounded with himself, Orliński is definitely winning a reputation as an artist of striking vocal beauty and daring stagecraft. Bravo!




Photo-montage by Zoltan Alexander

(left) Disco Ball by Alec Soth

(right) portrait of Jakub Józef Orliński Photo © Courtesy of Honorata Karapuda


Created by Zoltan Alexander

Production: ZOLTAN+MEDIA London

Video excerpt of the movie Stabat Mater directed by Sebastian Pańczyk

Music excerpts: Barry’s Mood (Ferry's Mood mix) by Cunnie Williams and Vivaldi Stabat Mater with Jakub Józef Orliński

℗ 2022 Warner Classics & Erato


Title: Vivaldi Stabat Mater

Directed by Sebastian Pańczyk (trailer)

Production: Warner Classics & Erato 2022

With the participation of Jakub Józef Orliński and Capella Cracoviensis.






© Copyright ZOLTAN+MEDIA
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