— At the Festival — Académie

Published on July 18 2018

Meeting with Krzysztof Bączyk, Faust / The Inquisitor in The Fiery Angel

© Pascal Victor

Friday 13 July 2018, 6pm, 1h30 before the performance of The Fiery Angel at the Grand Théâtre de Provence, I came into the dressing room of the Polish bass Krzysztof Bączyk who I found dressed from head to toe in white for the role of The Inquisitor, or even representing a Doctor Faust whose sermon-like intonations contrast with an existence as wretched as it is nightmarish. The questions do not take long to break…


Describe to us the role of Faust which you interpret in The Fiery Angel

What is very curious for the role of Faust, is that the tessitura that Prokofiev designates for it has nothing to do with what we are used to hearing in the operatic tradition. The tessituras are in a manner of speaking  turned around between Faust and Mephistopheles. The bass voice using a sermon-like vocal line of Faust contrasts with that of the tenor of Mephistopheles somewhat shrill. Faust is presented here as a rather jaded character. He falls prey to alcohol, frequents one of the more disreputable bars, slumps onto the counter. He is run-down, tired, washed out. To top it all, here he is accompanied by Mephistopheles whose existence is admittedly no brighter or exalting. Even if their relationship – we could say companionship – worked, but no, Faust treats Mephistopheles like an old wife for whom he has lost all desire. He suffers his presence, listens to what he has to say whilst sighing. Mephistopheles makes his head spin almost as much as alcohol does!

As for Heinrich and the Inquisitor...

For me Heinrich, The Inquisitor and The Fiery Angel are one and the same person. The Inquisitor is both very strong and very vulnerable. He is a perfectionist if not a maniac. He is always well behaved, not a crease, not a stain on his immaculately white suit. He never raises his voice. The Inquisitor, stone-faced, is never corrupted. He has rock solid self-confidence. He acts with calm and a firm hand; nothing hurries him. The Inquisitor slowly inspects the bodies of the young girls from the boarding school just like one would inspect meat in an abattoir. Everything has to be perfect, everything has to be in order. Only Renata is capable of destabilising him. As a matter of fact, he does not touch her in the same way as the other young girls. With Renata he loses his composure, appears to be nervous and displays a certain aggressiveness that up until now we had not noticed. Could he lose control?

How did you prepare the difficult role of The Inquisitor?

It was very complicated, because I had to put myself into the skin of a blind man. I therefore worked a great deal on body language. My walking stick enabled me to orientate myself, to direct my steps. I turn my head to the side on which my ear perceives a sound. I must say that the stage director Mariusz Treliński was always there to advise me and support me. He did not hesitate to come on stage to make suggestions whilst still leaving me a great margin of freedom. He had at the same time clear ideas, he knew exactly where he wanted to go, whilst remaining open to my suggestions even if it meant revising his position. I have never been so well directed as in this production and this has really enabled me to grow as an actor.

You are a frequent guest of the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and you went through your classes at the Académie of the Festival, tell us something about that…

It’s a long and touching story which ties me to the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and its Académie. I took part in 2012 in the Opera in Creation Workshop at the Académie, the following year, I had the good fortune to take part in the Mozart Residency which led to me being awarded the Friends of the Festival Prize. Engagements for roles at the heart of the Festival’s productions followed naturally. Firstly, with Elena by Cavalli on tour, then as HSBC Laureate of the Académie in 2014 I sang one after the other in The Magic Flute and Alcina. In 2017, I was Masetto in Don Giovanni and today, I have the chance of being part of the cast of The Fiery Angel after having won the Gabriel Dussurget Prize. If you observe this career path closely there has not been one year in which I have not actively taken part in the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and its Académie… Thinking about it again… Only 2016 is missing from the list! I consider that this is a fantastic margin of progression and I would advise all young singers to do the same thing, because the Académie offers great opportunities. I learnt a great deal, it gave me my first chance and I was able to be in contact with personalities who really count in the international operatic landscape. Here I am, so happy!

Your dream roles?

Mephistopheles in Gounod’s Faust, Philippe II in Verdi’s Don Carlos and in ten to fifteen years maybe the title role of Boris Godounov by Moussorgski.

Interview by Aurélie Barbuscia
Translation by Christopher Bayton