Mariusz Kwiecien: sexy singer
A Vancouver Recital Society production. At the Vancouver Playhouse on Sunday, December 2. No remaining performances
Mariusz Kwiecien's repertoire may consist of arias and lieder, but the 35-year-old baritone nonetheless knows all about working it for a crowd. When he strode onto the Playhouse stage, the audience wasn't quite sure whether to giggle or swoon. There's something almost comical, after all, about a man so confident in his masculine charms that he unbuttons his shirt to just above his navel, exposing a chest not waxed smooth but covered in swirling dark curls. The effect becomes doubly droll when combined with a pair of pants apparently tailored to ahem enhance what lies beneath.
Kwiecien should relax a little when it comes to bringing the sexy, because with a voice like his, an audience doesn't need convincing of his appeal. The Polish-born singer has been blessed with one so rich and honeyed he could be wearing an oversized pair of overalls and still bewitch the ladies.
In a program of Robert Schumann's Dichterliebe, Op. 48, followed by songs from Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, Mieczyslaw Karlowicz, and Maurice Ravel, Kwiecien lived up to the critical acclaim that has greeted his emergence. His delivery is firm and full of confidence; his is a big voice and he knows it. His physical gestures border at times on the clichéd and affected, but the youthful freshness of his singing makes it easy to forgive the occasional Celine Dion moment.
The Schumann, a setting of 16 poems by Heinrich Heine describing the elation of falling in love followed by the angst and grief of rejection, showcased Kwiecien's tonal and emotional range, from a sweet and gentle pianissimo to a raging, burning forte.
The seduction continued in the second half, his voice wrapping the Russian, Polish, and French works in a warm embrace, more than making up for the sometimes stumbling piano accompaniment of Howard Watkins. Called back to the stage at the end of the program, he finished with a song by Richard Strauss and the aria "Fin ch'han dal vino" from Mozart's Don Giovanni, an opera in which Kwiecien has starred as the title character to great acclaim. With his impish swagger and calculated ladies'-man image, it's not hard to see why Mozart's incorrigible seducer is, as he told the audience, "the role of my life".