When you think of a pop star, Baroque-revival opera isn't the genre that comes to mind. But 28-year-old Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński is out to show the world how hip opera can be.
How? Through break-dancing.
Orliński shared in a New Yorker article that he started his singing career with an all-male Gregorian choir in Warsaw.
This experience opened his eyes to sacred music, and he continued singing with the group throughout his childhood. This led him to attend Fryderyk Chopin University in Warsaw, where he started training professionally as a countertenor.
Alongside singing, Orliński started break-dancing in his teens and became a member of the famed Skill Fanatikz Crew. His energy and charisma from dancing translates nicely into opera, where Baroque roles fit his playful manner well.
Sometimes directors request that he bust a move onstage, and he incorporates many tricks into his warm-up routine to stretch his back and lengthen the muscles in his vocal cords.
In a mini-documentary shared on his Facebook page, Orliński explains how break-dancing taught him to connect with his body in a way that improves his singing; "Break dance allowed me to understand how my body works taught me the discipline, and helped me to find the balance."
Besides singing and dancing, Orliński has modeled for publications such as Polish Vogue and France's Citizen K. His looks gained the attention of 3.6 million viewers on YouTube, when a livestreamed radio performance went viral with his rendition of Vivaldi's "Vedró con mio diletto" from Il Giustino.
Even though the songs he performs are from the 18th century, Orliński recognizes that composers such as Handel and Vivaldi were the pop stars of their day.
"I treat Baroque music as, basically, pop music, but in their time," he told the New Yorker. "I feel like Justin Timberlake sometimes. I feel fresh, and I feel kind of entertained by performing, and I want to have fun. I don't want it to be kind of stiff--'I'm going to sing some classical music and be serious right now.'"
His views on opera, as well as his active presence on social media, have attracted droves of younger audience members to his concerts. These new fans sometimes break typical concert-going conventions to cheer loudly and hold up iPhones to film their favorite parts of Orliński's performance.
Breaking the boundaries of classical music is something that Orliński takes to heart. "I have this goal to bring new people to classical music, and, I have to say, it works," he told the New Yorker. "Like newcomers telling me afterward, 'This is my first time and I loved it, and I went only because I saw your Instagram and it was showing this kind of life style.'"
Jakub Józef Orliński has shown that opera can not only appeal to millennial audiences, but can connect to many other art forms as well.
We can't wait to see what he'll do next.