The Houston Grand Opera



By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Houston Grand Opera's 1991 DON GIOVANNI. Photo by Jim Caldwell

October 28, 31, November 3, 5m, 9, and 11, 2006

In Italian with English surtitles

A Houston Grand Opera Production

          Don Giovanni, Mozartís adaptation of the Don Juan story, showcases young Polish sensation Mariusz Kwiecien (ďright on the cusp of international opera stardom,Ē Opera News ) as the worldís most famous lover, making his house debut in the role that has already made him famous in Vienna, Tokyo, and Santa Fe. HGO Studio alumni Oren Gradus and Ana Maria Martinez, both seen in The Marriage of Figaro in fall 2005, return as the Donís sidekick Leporello and Donna Elvira, respectively. Canadian soprano Alexandra Deshorties (Idomeneo, 2005) sings Donna Anna, and American tenor Garrett Sorenson makes his house debut as her fiancť Don Ottavio, whom she recruits to help bring the Don to justice. Irish mezzo-soprano Fiona Murphy (Manon Lescaut , 2006) sings Zerlina, whom the Don seduces on her wedding day.

           Patrick Summers conducts; Harry Silverstein revives HGOís ďsimple and elegantĒ (Houston Chronicle) production by GŲran Jarvefelt with sets and costumes by Carl Friedrich Oberle and lighting by Nigel Levings.

Cast:                                                                           Production Team:

Don Giovanni

Mariusz Kwiecien *


Patrick Summers


Oren Gradus á

Original Director

GŲran Jarvefelt

Donna Anna

Alexandra Deshorties


Harry Silverstein

Donna Elvira

Ana Maria Martinez á

Set/Costume Designer

Carl Friedrich Oberle

Don Ottavio

Garrett Sorenson *

Lighting Designer

Nigel Levings


Fiona Murphy Ü ^

Chorus Master

Richard Bado á


Raymond Aceto

Fight Director

Brian Byrnes

^  Role debut             *  Houston Grand Opera debut      Ü  Current HGO Studio member     á  Former HGO Studio member


Corporate Guarantor: Lyondell Chemical Company



Interview with Mariusz Kwiecien Starring As DON GIOVANNI

By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for The Houston Grand Opera

By Theresa Pisula

October 27, 2006

This season, the title role of the amorous DON GIOVANNI written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart will be performed by MARIUSZ KWIECIEN, a rising star from Poland.  Mariusz has won accolades worldwide for his handsome voice, incisive musicianship and strong stage presence.  A native of Krakow, he is an alumnus of the Metropolitan Operaís Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.  His operatic engagements take him to the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Vienna State Opera, Grand Theatre De Geneve, San Francisco Opera, Seattle Opera, and the Glyndebourne Festival.


Polish Baritone Mariusz Kwiecien - Houston Grand Opera Debut


He is enormously talented but as you will see in this interview his international superstardom does not make him haughty at all.  What makes him so incredibly appealing is his European style and his easy-going candor.  When I met him for this interview, he looked ruggedly handsome in his casual jeans and I was easily attracted to his humorous demeanor.  My husband Pawel Pisula, who is also from Poland and has never been to an Opera, accompanied me to the interview.  I think he did so partly to meet this new Polish sensation and also because to deter me from the wiles of this supernova lover DON GIOVANNI.

Theresa:  I read somewhere that you are a Scorpio and so am I.  How old are you?

Mariusz:  33.

Theresa:  Whenís your Birthday?

Mariusz:  November 4th

Theresa:  My Birthday is October 31st, the day I will be watching you perform Don Giovanni.

Mariusz:  Ahh, then I will sing for you.

Theresa:  (Smiles) Thanks.  Iím supposed to pick up press pictures for the opera.

Mariusz:  Yeah.  I want to see those pictures too.  I have to see them because I look terrible.  Iím dying because of syphilisÖ

Theresa:  Really?

Mariusz:  At the end of this production.

Theresa:  Oh, sorry I thoughtÖ(laughs)

Mariusz:  (Laughs) I wouldnít share it with you if I do have syphilis.  Not during this interview.  Believe me!

Theresa:  (Laughs) Oh, I was gonna say, are you taking medication for this?

Mariusz:  No, in the production, I get syphilis.  So I have like make-up and there is a girl, she used to work in Hollywood making horror movies.  So, she makes me up with a lot of shadows, bad face, white and dark colors.  And I have no hair, just a little bit of white hairs sticking out.

Theresa:  Awesome.  So, thatís perfect for Halloween!

Mariusz:  Oh yeah, it is.

Pawel:  So how long are you going to stay in Houston?

Mariusz:  Just until the last show which is the 11th of November two more weeks.  But Iíve been here already 31 days, 32 days which is about a month.  And the weatherís been great.  Texas weather is a great one, donít you think?

Theresa:  Itís humid. 

Mariusz:  Itís very humid.  But now, itís just perfect.  I love it you know?  Compared to what you have in New York or Poland.

Theresa:  So, youíve been rehearsing for this opera for a month.

Mariusz:  Yes, I came here on the 26th of September about one month ago.

Theresa:  So you were born and grew up in Poland.

Mariusz:  I was born in Krakow.  I went to a very regular school I was not a musician then.  When I was a grown young man, at 18 I decided to go to the Krakow Musical Academy.  Itís an academy for music, for every kind of musician.  But they also have a different department for singing and acting.  Some people decide to be an opera singer.  Some people just stay with concerts, oratorio or lead songs.  So I was one of those singers who decided to be a lead singer. I didnít like opera I hated opera I can say. 

Theresa:  Why?

Mariusz:  Because it was very unnatural for me.  Iím natural you know.  As a kid, I used to ask my mother, ďMom, why do those people have such a big vibrato?  Why do they sing like this?Ē  And she says, ďWell you have to sing like that.Ē

Theresa:  This was when you were 18?

Mariusz:  Before I was singing in choirs, non-professional.  I used to sing in small roles small parts in oratorios but it was nothing professional.  Everything was for pleasure.  When I was 18 I joined this Academy of Music in Krakow.  It usually takes 6 years for training so after the 3rd year I won the competition in Wroclaw.  Then I decided to move to Warsaw to the same kind of Academy of Music.  And I finished this academy in Warsaw.  And then I started to sing already during my Warsaw school, I started to sing onstage.  I decided at that time that maybe singing songs is very nice but I need some money.  And the most popular thing in our business is opera and the most payable.  And then if you become a big opera singer you sing concerts and for those concerts you can get a lot of money later on, if you are famous.  But if you are not famous, opera is the best thing that you can get. 

So, thatís why I decided to be an opera singer.  And when I was 22, I made my debut in Poznan in Poland singing the title role in the Marriage of Figaro by Mozart.  And then after this school, after 6 years of education in Poland I made my debut at La Scala in Milan and Vienna and Paris.  And then in Vienna, Austria when I was singing performances I was heard by the manager from New York, Columbia Artists Management Inc. Ė CAMI and he invited me to come to New York and sing for this audition for the Metropolitan Opera.  I came to New York and I wanted to be an artist to come and sing the title role but at the time I was only 25.  So, they said, ďYou are a little too young to give you such a responsible job,Ē because it was the best Opera house in the world and because they decided to give me this top position.  They wanted to keep me for 2 years in the Young Artists Program at the Met so I would be again in school working with my roles and with good teachers.  They paid for everything so it was a very good thing because I could see good productions, I could work with famous people and good musicians and I was getting paid for this so I didnít have to be preoccupied at all with money and everything else.  So I decided that yes, okay, I will do it.  It took almost 2 years.  When I was 27, it immediately bumped my singing career all over the world in Europe, in America, in Japan of course and in many places.  And it is where it is right now.

Theresa:  Wow.

Polish Tenor Jan Mieczyslaw Reszke 1850 - 1925


Pawel:  So, youíre like a rock star (laughs).

Mariusz:  Well, kind of.  I donít know if those rock stars have 6 years of vocal education (laughs).  It is 8 years altogether itís 6 in Poland and 2 in New York. 

Theresa:  (laughs) you know what?  Some of them should.

Mariusz:  Thatís 8 years of vocal education.  Thatís a lot.  Thatís a lot! 

Pawel:  Can you train for this or do you have to be gifted?

Mariusz:  You have to be gifted.  You have to be gifted.

Pawel:  When did you realize that you are gifted?

Mariusz:  Iím gifted in many different things.

Theresa:  Not just singing?

Mariusz:  Yeah, I write poetry.  I paint very well.  I write music.  I was a dancer, a sportsman, everything.   I do many things.  Basically the idea to study singing came from my friends.  And they said you know you have such a good voice.  You should really try, you should sing.  At that time, I really didnít think about opera.  I hated it.  So, I said, okay, I will study.  I didnít have any other idea where I can go and what I can study, what kind of subject I want to choose.  So, thatís why I said, an artistic job is the best one.  And my mom and my father said, ďHow are you going to live with this?  You think youíll get money?Ē  Well, we will see.

Theresa:  Does your family have a musical background?

Mariusz:  A little bit.  My father Jozef Kwiecien used to play in a rock band when he was much younger.  He was a boxer in the beginning and then he played in a rock group.  He played drums and guitar.  So my mom fell in love with him when she heard how he sings and plays the guitar.  My mom Maria Kwiecien played violin for 2 years.  But my grandma is like, very talented, she still writes birthday and holiday wishes in poetry.

 Theresa:  Does your grandmother sing?

Mariusz:  Well, she had a great voice but she never was a singer professionally.  She (my grandmotherís name is Zofia) sang in church and in private parties.  We have this very nice culture especially the older generation of Polish people in small villages.  And we sing especially at Christmas and Easter.

Theresa:  Are you Catholic?

Mariusz:  I grew up Catholic but itís hard to say what I am.  I just believe in good energy.  Thatís the most important thing.  Iím not afraid to say things like this.  It is the best thing if you can believe in something.  But Iím definitely not like, Buddha or Jesus Christ or Allah.  I donít believe in God in person so thatís why for me God is the energy. 

And so my family used to sing.  My uncle Tadeusz, my fatherís brother has an incredible voice, great voice.  If he would be 30 years younger and he would have this voice, he would be pushed by me or other people to really study singing because his voice is really incredible, very strong and very beautiful.  But theyíre always in the church choir, you know.  Still in that period when they were young it was a fully Communistic period in Poland so being close to the church, it was something special, something very full of hope.  People loved to pray and they felt unified in church and to fight against the country and Communism.  It was like that back then but now itís a different period.  Itís much easier, I have to say.  And so since my fatherís name is Jozef (Joseph) and my motherís name is Maria (Mary), so I should be Jesus because of Joseph and Mary (laughs).

Theresa: (Laughs)

Pawel: (Laughs).  Have other television or radio stations come to interview you?

Mariusz:  Oh yes, all the time.  You know, I am the most successful Polish Opera singer in the world.  I sang La Scala, Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Paris, Vienna, Berlin and in Rome.  So basically, the biggest houses in the world so if you go to and from all these different places, you earn a reputation.  Plus, I sing only main roles so I donít sing those smaller roles which are not that important.  Always, always people want to interview the principal characters.  So, I get interviewed all the time.  Only now Iíve already had 5 or 6 interviews since Iíve been here.  Especially in Poland, Iím basically every month in some kind of program in TV or radio.


Polish Tenor Jan Kiepura 1902 - 1966


Theresa:  Do you get a lot of discrimination?

Mariusz:  In the beginning when it was very hard to communicate.  I couldnít speak English very well at the time.  I didnít speak German or Italian and I had to work with a stage director who probably didnít like Polish people, but now, no.  Because if somebody doesnít like me I say, ďFuck off.Ē  And thatís it.  Now, I have a right to say it.  And now I always start from this position.  Now that I have my established position in this business and I speak a few languages.

Theresa:  How many languages do you speak?

Mariusz:  Well, Iím fluent in Polish, of course.  Then, Italian, English and Russian and then of course, a little bit of German, a little bit of French, a little bit of Spanish but this is everything in progress.  I have to learn.  I must learn those languages.  Because in every language in which I sing the role I want to be able to speak.

Pawel:  Mostly the opera roles are in Italian. 

Mariusz:  Iím a very Italian singer, typical Italian.  So I basically sing Italian repertoire.  But I have also sung Escamilio Toreador in Carmen, which is in French written by Bizet.  Iíve also sung Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky in Russian and many Russian songs.  And there are some Spanish songs.  And of course songs written in German lyric, Schumann, Brahms, Strauss, itís like a huge, huge classical collection of those composers who wrote German poetry.

Theresa:  So, part of the training is learning the language of these songs for better expression of the character onstage.

Mariusz:  Well, you have to learn it.  If you sing, you have to know exactly what everybody sings, what it is about.  Itís not enough just to sing it, you have to know.  I also have a coach.  We have coaches.  In every opera house, every production has coaches.  You come, you have the conductor, you have a pianist who is a musical coach and you have a prompter who is coaching you also how to pronounce.  If you donít understand you can always ask.  Or you can give the text to the translator.  But you have to know what youíre singing about.  Thatís the most important thing.

Pawel:  Who influenced you the most as an Artist?

Mariusz:  Itís hard to say.  For me, the inspiration is every artist who sings vocal performance.  It is not only singers but painters or dancers who perform their Art with a hundred percent of energy, love and passionWithout this, you only have technical movement or technical sounds.  This is also the case if your passion is in cars, in making clothes or cooking, in everything.  If you have passion and experience and love if you put those 3 things together, you have success.  I believe in this.  That is my success.  And I really admire everybody like that.  Thereís not that many people who are like that, you have to know, not so many people who can put these together and really believe in this.  And as you know, if you believe, you can go through many, many things with a smile on your face.  And thatís why itís much easier for me to live.  Usually, I have friends who are open, clean people.  They have an open energy which is coming from the world.  So, this is for me the most inspirational. 

Theresa:  What about other Polish opera singers such as Wieslaw Ohman, how have they influenced you?

Mariusz:  Wieslaw Ohman is of an older generation singer, heís now much closer to 70, I think.  Twenty years ago, heís quite famous.  But I would mention other names of great Polish singers, Teresa Zylis-Gara and the biggest Jan Kiepura, he was the most successful Polish tenor in the 1920ís just before the war.  Before him, it was the Reszke brothers, Jan Mieczyslaw Reszke.  So after Jan Kiepura, Teresa Zylis-Gara was the biggest and most famous, the most successful Polish opera singer in the world.  In the communistic period, she emigrated from Poland to Germany and then to America.  She sung in those houses and she had this opportunity because other singers they have problems trying to get a passport and they couldnít go. 

For example, you had a contract, it comes in and you sign it and in 5 days you have to be there or there.  Sorry, but you couldnít get a passport in 2 months.  It was very problematic at that time.  Now very famous also of the older generation is Eva Podles.  She is a Contralto, a very low female voice.  She sings basically in East America, New York, Boston, Detroit, those places.  And a little bit older than I but still I can say that sheís in my generation is Malgorzata Waleswka.  Sheís a mezzo soprano, she sings a lot.  But I am now the next one because my career is really going strongly.  This is what I can say and I will not hide this because looking forward, I have a lot of optimism I can get much further and much higher.  And when I study and practice like right now, I get better.

Polish Soprano Teresa Zylis Gara


Mariusz:  the most important thing for singers is to shut up.  Just donít speak because speaking is the most tiring thing which you can do if you speak too much.  Of course, drinking and smoking, I drink and I smoke but when I have time for this.  But when itís time to sing, I quit it.  I have to really sleep a lot, eat well and drink a lot of water and donít speak.  And thatís basically it, thatís it. 

Theresa:  What is your next job after Houston?

Mariusz:  Iím going back to Warsaw and I do Don Giovanni in Warsaw 3 days after Houston.  Then, I have concerts with Malgorzata Walewska, we sing Polish songs in Krakow, in Gliwice and in Warsaw.  We have 3 concerts in November.  And then in the beginning of December, I am flying to Seattle and I do Don Giovanni in Seattle again and will spend Christmastime there, then in New York.  After the New Year I will be in Vienna, I am in Hamburg.  Then I come back to New York to sing the 40th Anniversary Gala of the Metropolitan Opera.  This will be a huge, huge, huge event.  And then, Iím recording the new CD of La Boheme with famous singers Anna Netrebko from Russia and Rolando Villazon from Mexico, they are both rising stars.  We will do it in Munich, Germany.  Then Iím going to be in San Diego doing The Marriage of Figaro and San Francisco doing Don Giovanni again.


Russian Opera Singer Anna Netrebko

Pawel:  (Laughs) how do you remember all that?

Mariusz:  This is only until the end of the season, until July.  In July I fly to Japan to do another production in Tokyo with Seiji Ozawa who is a very famous Japanese conductor, one of the biggest conductors in all over the world.  We will do Carmen in Tokyo so it will be basically my season until July 2007.

Conductor Seiji Ozawa

Pawel:  And then you take a vacation.

Mariusz:  And then I have 10 days of vacation and I start my next opera season.  But yes, Iím signing now contracts for 2011-2012 Season so thatís 5 years ahead.  So I can tell you exactly what Iím doing in 2009 or 2010.  I have my manager who tries to book me.  The manager is planning what kind of role you can sing to grow and to really develop your talent and then to come to certain places like getting a lot of money for this concert in 10 years or singing this or that role.  Because for example I am young, Iím 33 and I cannot sing heavy Verdi roles but when Iím 45 or 50, it will be the perfect time to start to sing those heavy roles.  And if you have a manager, the manager plans how you can grow with roles and with your talent.  You cannot just jump immediately like if you donít know how to swim.  And if you are just pushed to swim in the ocean, you will drown.  So thatís why I have my manager.  But the opera houses pick the roles.  You have the main director and they have an administrator of the whole opera and then you have the artistic director.  And the artistic director chooses who can sing what roles.

Theresa:  The casting director picks you to sing the role.

Mariusz:  So those people with the combination of roles and artists.  They always call the manager and my manager books my roles.  So I donít have to participate in this dirty stuff because you know, Iím just pre-occupied with my singing.

Theresa:  Youíre the Talent. 

Pawel:  Well, without you they canít do anything (laughs).

Mariusz:  Well, well, well, you know I have to pay for this.  Iím paying because 10 percent of my whole income goes to my manager. 

Pawel:  What roles do you get as a Baritone?

Mariusz:  Yes, the Baritone is lower than the Tenor and higher than Base.  So it means that every role of  handsome guys like Don Giovanni, Toreador and big characters like Macbeth, Nabucco and Simon Boccanegra those roles are for Baritones, for full lyric voices. 

Theresa:  What kind of music are you interested in other than opera?

Mariusz:  Everything and nothing, basically (laughs).  It was a period when I was 13 or 14 there was a famous Italo-disco music.  The group is Europe and their song is called ďThe Final CountdownĒ and I love this kind of music.  I like Bon Jovi.  But you know, actually I like already the choral music, madrigals the old, old music baroque music written by Bach, Monteverdi and Palestrina those composers who wrote beautiful, beautiful music, church music of course for choir and choruses.  It was exactly the type of music I wrote, I started to write music and I wrote music for chorus.  And I loved this music and I was a member of the chorus. 

It was basically my biggest interest at that time.  But then of course you discover something that you have a talent for and you really have to go on.  You have to just invest in this, focus on one thing.  Because Iím making now pictures, Iím a photographer.  I love to take pictures and I travel all over the world.  I go to Kenya, to Mexico or to China to many places, Japan of course and I take pictures of people, animals and landscape.  And I probably will exhibit those pictures in Krakow and we are working on this right now.  I also design furniture and my newest apartment in Krakow is fully designed by me, walls, furniture, everything.

Theresa:  Wow.

Mariusz:  So, I always say that if you have a talent for many things, you still have to focus on one, and the rest you can treat as a pleasure or hobby.  You cannot do many things together because not even one will be good enough to really survive.

Theresa:  Youíre pretty amazing.  You get to travel everywhere like to Germany or Vienna.  Do you like to travel to all these different places?

Mariusz:  Yes, I like to travel so it was never a problem for me.  The biggest problem was language.  I couldnít speak languages.  And then when I came to America, I started to really learn English.  My English is not perfect but I can communicate.  I can express everything that I need, I want and I can basically understand everything that people are talking about.  So, this is the knowledge that you need. 

So I joined the Young Artists Program in New York speaking in very poor English.  And then I improved a little bit.  In the beginning it was a really hard job for me because everybody spoke English.  I was the only foreigner in this program.  And nobody wanted to explain or help me.  I would say, ďExcuse me, repeat please.Ē  And they would repeat at exactly the same speed.  And it wouldnít make any sense.  And you know, I had to participate in every lesson, acting coaches and everything.  Thatís why it was very hard for me to understand. 

But then in half a year, six months, it was nothing.  You get it.  If you have it everyday, you wake up with it and you go to bed having this language in your ears, you start to think in this language.  Even now, as I am talking to my friends today in Poland and I mix the English and the Polish and I get frustrated.  Especially when I try to say something really fast and I put two words together and I donít even notice it.  And they laugh always.  This is exactly the same thing in Italy.  I go to Italy I speak all the time in ItalianÖItalianÖItalian.  And then I come to Poland and then I want to say something and itís so much easier in Italian than in Polish.  So, it really just comes automatically.

Pawel:  Are you more fluent in Italian or English?

Mariusz:  I think English.  But itís more or less the same.  I make mistakes but I know many words and I have no problem to communicate.  English, most places basically can speak English.  I speak Italian only when Iím in Italy or if I work with an Italian singer. 

Pawel:  Where do you like to work the best?

Mariusz:  Here, in America.  Itís the most professional treatment.  I like to work here in Houston.  Itís a very lovely placeÖ

Theresa:  But itís so capitalistic.

Mariusz:  Yes, but itís maybe not the best paying.  Europe pays a lot more.  Italy pays a lot of money.  Vienna pays money.  Salzburg Festival in Austria itís the biggest festival.  Where are you from?

Theresa:  Philippines.

Mariusz:  Iíd love to go to the Philippines.  Iím dying to go to India.

Theresa:  What was it like for you in Japan?

Mariusz:  Japan is too organized.

Theresa:  What do you mean too organized?

Mariusz:  Japan is too organized, no?  Donít you think?

Theresa:  The hotels you mean?

Mariusz:  Everything, the whole life. 

Theresa:  Really?

Mariusz:  Oh, people are like computers.  They have 20 million people living in Tokyo and you cannot find a cigarette on the street.  And everybody smokes there.  Did you notice it?  And everybody walks like this.  You have no people walking against each other because they walk in like organized traffic.  Ah, are you asking about the language, yes? 

Pawel:  What language did you sing in Japan?

Mariusz:  Italian.  Yes, always the original language the Opera was written.

Pawel:  Are there any Japanese opera singers?

Mariusz:  Yes, sometimes good.  But itís hard for me to remember their names, you know (laughs).

Pawel: Wow (laughs).

Theresa: (Laughs).

Mariusz:  Chinese and Japanese, yes, there are a lot of good singers.

Pawel:  So, youíre one of the top Polish opera singers in the world right now.

Mariusz:  Itís very hard to say that Iím on the top but compared to other people, how many concerts theyíve had, Iím absolutely like that much ahead.  But you know every day is a new day so everyday thereís new talent.

Theresa:  You mean competition?

Mariusz:  This is not a competition.  Because I wait for new Polish people, I think we have so many talented people.  But itís really boring to be alone, to be the only one from Poland.  Because they think that in Poland they have only carrots and potatoes and sausage.  And they ask me sometimes, ďHave you ever drunk Coca-Cola?Ē I mean, come on, we live in the same world (laughs).

Pawel: (Laughs).

Theresa:  (Laughs) I know itís much easier now because weíre in 2006.  But growing up in Communist Poland, how did you adapt to modern democracy?

Mariusz:  Very quickly, you know?  The human being is the kind of creature which accepts everything what is better immediately.  Itís hard to go back to what is worse, you know? (Laughs) So thatís why I remember being like 15 or 16 and going for an invitation of our Pope John Paul II.  I had a private audition with the Pope.  By the way, he was a friend of our family.  My father was baptized by the Pope and he was very often with my grandfather, they were friends.  So we had this kind of connection.


Polish Pope John Paul II

Theresa:  Youíre kiddingÖreally?

Mariusz:  Oh yes.  In Krakow, many people knew the Pope very well.  He was very much with the people in Krakow.

Pawel:  Yeah, he was the peopleís Pope.

Mariusz:  Yes, he was this kind of person.  He was a Bishop, and then Cardinal and then of course when he became the Pope, he had to spend the rest of his life in Rome in the Vatican.  So I went to Italy, it was the first trip in my life outside of Poland (Germany, Italy, France) so of course I was amazed.  I loved Germany because of those flashing beautiful lights in the night and everything was so expensive.  And then when I went to Italy, it was so romantic and so beautiful.  And those churches and the monks praying and I visited the St. Francis of Assisi in Rome.  So these places are incredible, and then of course Paris. 

Pawel:  How about Russia? 

Mariusz:  I opened the season in Moscow right before this in September I sung the role of Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky.  Yes, itís an interesting place but it still needs some more Europe (laughs).  To have the Kremlin, the Red Square renovated is not enough.

Pawel and Theresa:  (Laughs).

Mariusz:  It needs more of the real world, you know, where you can buy shoes for $2,000 or $3,000 itís still not enough.  They need to change the mentality and the roads and the old Communistic buildings. 

Polish Contralta Ewa Podles

Theresa:  Now letís talk Don Giovanni.  Tell us about the part that youíre playing.

Mariusz:  Don Giovanni is the biggest seducer in the world and he was a most unhappy man.

Theresa:  Why was he unhappy?

Mariusz:  Unhappy because to be the desire of thousands of women.  For example, Marilyn Monroe, she wasnít a happy woman being the most beautiful in the world and the most desired woman in the world.  And you know Don Giovanni is like that.  He used to kill, he used to rape, he used to lie just to get one thing Ė just to fuck.  As soon as he got what he wanted, he was already done.  ďWell okay, thank you.Ē  And then he goes for the next hunt, you know?  And the girls wait for the kiss and sweet words but heís gone. 

In the end, whether itís a bad or good end, however you look at this, he goes to hell.  Heís taken by one of his victims heís killed one old soldier in the beginning of the opera and the soldier comes and takes him to hell.  So this is bad for him.  It is good from my point of view and for the world because he is such a terrible creature after so many hunts and people that were in love with him.  In my idea, he had sex with dogs and men and everything else thatís walking around in this world.

Theresa:  Nuh-uh.

Mariusz:  Iím pretty sure, yes.  He was this kind of man.  So, he was basically into this kind of heavy permanent partying.  So, finally, at the end of this opera, you can really feel pity for him because he was never satisfied.  He never loved never really loved, always desired people.  And always had sex but he never loved.  But he was very alone, I think and very unhappy because of that and thatís why he went too far and thatís why in the end he dies.

Pawel:  He got Syphilis in the end and he dies?

Mariusz:  In this production, yes.  But in some productions you are just taken to hell, you burn, or you justÖ

Theresa:  Really?  How does it change from production to production?  They change the story?

Mariusz:  Every production is different. 

Pawel:  Why do they change? 

Mariusz:  Why?  The story is the basic story, but itís how you die, how you go to hell. 

Theresa:  Do they change the ending?

Mariusz:  No, not the ending.  They can change every time how you go to hell.  One time, you go to hell, you have a piece of wood which goes from under the stage.  Sometimes you are taken away in the woods.  Or killed in one production where a guyís arms get torn apart.  In this production, onstage he puts his hands in the hole and then another hand is taken away from him, it was a plastic hand.  And then people took it so finally you see that he doesnít have his hands.  All you have is a body without hands and legs. 

One time, I jumped through the mirror, for example.  I was Jesus Christ and we were preparing the last supper.  There were prostitutes with me and I took this glass and I was drinking cocaine from this, smelling it and then I was fucking an old fat woman on stage and then I couldnít stand it and I jumped to the mirror.  But it was a mirror made of fake glass.  So I just jumped there and disappeared from the world. 

Theresa:  But youíre singing MozartÖ

Mariusz:  The music is written, the music is always the same.  The story and words are always the same.  But itís what you do that change, how you seduce and what kind of costume you have.  You know, you can come as a UFO, as an alien or on a boat or on a horse, everything, whatever you want.  So thatís the great thing, Iíve sung Don Giovanni already like 60 or 70 times.  But every production is different.  So every time I do Don Giovanni, heís a different kind of man.  So thatís what makes it so interesting. 

Pawel:  So the director of the whole show decides how to put it onstage?

Mariusz:  It is his vision.  He gives you the vision and you can take it or you can say, ďListen, Iím not going to be naked in this playĒ or something like that.  ďIím not going to have sex with a woman on the table, I donít like it.  Itís disgusting.Ē  Thatís why we have one monthís rehearsal to really specify what we do exactly.  So we do exactly the same thing every evening.  We decide this and this and this, this is our action we put lights, together with the orchestra.  We rehearse 2, 3, 4 times, dress rehearsal and we perform.  So this is the work not only of the singers but of the designers, costume designers, set designers, stage director, conductor, orchestra and the pianist who coaches you, vocal coaching and language coaching.  So thereís this huge amount of people working in the chorus, working together for one production. 

Pawel:  The opera house is a pretty big place.  Do you wear a microphone?  Are you ever amplified?

Mariusz:  Never.  Itís your technique.  You have to produce your voice with vibrations, with your ear.  You have to learn how to support your voice to really go with the best sound.  And you know, you have 80 people in the orchestra.  So you really have to sing loud to be heard through the orchestra and such a big hall.

Polish Mezzo Soprano Malgorzata Walewska

Pawel:  How long is the Opera?

Mariusz:  3 hours, maybe a little bit more.

Theresa:  Whatís the longest opera you've ever done?

Mariusz:  I think this is long, pretty long.  The Marriage of Figaro is almost 4 hours.  There are some Wagner Operas, they take 6 hours.  The Ring of Nibelung written by Wagner.  You have 3 different operas as one cycle, and you go from day to day, one is 6 hours, one is 7 hours and one is 5 hours.

Pawel:  Do you feel exhausted after that?

Mariusz:  You know what?  Every opera I lose about 2 kilos, thatís about 5 pounds, after 3 hours of singing.

Pawel:  Really?  Youíre skinnier 5 lbs. after 3 hours of singing?  So itís pretty hard work.

Mariusz:  Yeah.  You sweat a lot.  And you have costumes, for example, like tomorrow, I will have a shirt and a vest and I have a heavy jacket, and then I have a huge cape.  I have a hat, gloves and boots up to here, pants and tights.  On the last scene, I have 3 wigs on my head.  Because I take one wig off, and then a bald wig, and then my syphilis wig and then I have my real wig.  And then I have a hat on top of that. 

Pawel:  So youíre hot (laughs).  You feel hot.

Mariusz:  In every meaning of this word (laughs).  You donít know how difficult it is to be hot.  And then, HOT.  You know it is terrible (laughs).  Because you have to seduce women and you feel like dropping (from the heat).

Pawel:  Do you feel natural onstage?

Mariusz:  Oh yes, I love the stage. 

Pawel:  You like to perform.

Mariusz:  Oh, I love it.

Pawel:  You donít feel nervous or?

Mariusz:  Sometimes, in the beginning but then after I perform, itís okay.

Pawel:  What about all those people?

Mariusz:  No, no, no.  Without those people, I cannot sing.  I need it.  Just as I say, I was born to be onstage.  So, thatís a nice feeling.




The Houston Grand Opera performs at the Wortham Theater Center in Houstonís Downtown Theater District.  Opened in 1987, the Wortham Center features the 2,329-seat Brown Theater and the 1,065-seat Cullen Theater.



            Subscriptions for the 2006Ė2007 Season, priced at $140 to $1,125, are now on sale through HGOís Customer Care Center.  Single tickets go on sale August 27, 2006.

            New Family Packages: HGO will offer two different three-opera subscription packages for families, which include specially priced childrenís tickets and pre-curtain activities in the lobby for the whole family.  The packages include Hansel and Gretel, La Cenerentola, and either AÔda or The Cunning Little Vixen.  A range of seating options is available throughout the theater, from Orchestra Circle to the Balcony.  Adult tickets are deeply discounted (ranging from $77 for three operas to $224) and the childrenís tickets are only $10, making this three-opera series an affordable option for Houston families.  Additionally, the productions included in the family packages are the most artistically ambitious of the seasonóthree of the four productions offered are being designed specifically for HGO.

             New Young Professionals Series: HGO is also proud to offer its first Young Professionals subscription package, created to respond to the popularity of this seasonís inaugural ďOpening Nights for Young Professionals,Ē also known as O.N.  The O.N. series offers orchestra tickets and exclusive pre-performance cocktail parties at which individuals mingle with their peers and meet the ďyoung professionalsĒ of HGOís world: young directors, conductors, and HGO Studio artists.  This season, over 1000 people came to HGO for the first time to attend O.N.  Next seasonís reasonably priced $155 O.N. package includes orchestra seats for opening night performances of Don Giovanni, Faust, and AÔda.   A $35 tax-deductible contribution is also built into the package. 

             For information on subscriptions, call Houston Grand Opera at 713-228-OPERA (6737) or 1-800-62-OPERA (1-800-626-7372) 9 a.m.Ė5 p.m. MondayĖFriday.



            The Wells Fargo Pre-Curtain Lecture Series takes place forty-five minutes before each performance.  Guest speakers present a twenty-minute informal lecture in the orchestra level of the Brown Theater.  These lectures, free and open to all ticket holders, are intended to enhance the audienceís enjoyment by preparing them for the production they are about to attend.

            The Wortham Theater Center features wheelchair access to both theaters, with a choice of seating locations and ticket prices. 

            An infrared listening system, underwritten by Shell Lubricants, is available and free of charge at all performances.  Please call HGOís Customer Care Center at 713-228-OPERA (6737) or 1-800-62-OPERA (67372) for details.

            Descriptive services for persons with vision loss are available with a 48-hour advance reservation.  Please call HGOís Education and Outreach department at 713-546-0230 for details.



HGO gratefully acknowledges support for the following series: Opening Night Series made possible by Fluor Corporation; Friday Series made possible by Fayez Sarofim & Co.; Weeknight Series made possible by Schlumberger

The 2006-2007 season is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the City of Houston through the Cultural Arts Council of Houston and Harris County, and the Texas Commission on the Arts through the Cultural Arts Council. 

ExxonMobil Corporation is Education and Outreach Guarantor.   

Continental Airlines is the Official Airline of Houston Grand Opera.