Chicago-based barihunk Zacharias Niedzwiecki is new to our site and came to our attention earlier this year when he performed in Purcell's The Fairy Queen at Long Beach Opera. He received his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University, where he performed in numerous productions, including the role of Connie Rivers in the collegiate premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon's The Grapes of Wrath, Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance as The Pirate King, Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann as Schlémiel, Kurt Weill's Mahagonny Songspiel as Jimmy/Cypress Stark, and Puccini's La Bohème as Colline.
Niedzwiecki is in his second year as a member of the Professional Diploma in Opera Program at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts in conjunction with Chicago Opera Theater. Last season he made his debut this with Chicago Opera Theater in Frank Martin’s The Love Potion as Duke Hoël, covered the role of Oberon in Purcell’s The Fairy Queen with Chicago Opera Theater and Long Beach Opera, and appeared in the US premiere of Phillip Glass’ The Perfect American.
This season you can see Zacharias with Chicago Opera Theater in Menotti’s The Consul as Assan, the world premiere of Kevin Puts’ Elizabeth Cree as both Mr. Etcher and Karl Marx. He will also be covering multiple roles with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in Gregory Spears’s opera Fellow Travelers.
Niedzwiecki is also a cycle instructor and yoga teacher keeps his body as fit as his voice. He answered some questions for us about his career, his fitness routine and a little about his personal interests.
|Zacharias Niedzwiecki in Long Beach Opera's The Fairy Queen (photo: Liz Lauren)|
1. What drew you to a career in opera? I was first drawn to the beauty of opera. When I was young, I thought that it was the most beautiful art form I ever experienced. I wanted to somehow be that beautiful too, so I aspired to be an opera singer. Somehow those aspirations became reality.
2. You are a cycle instructor and yoga teacher. Tell us about that and what got you started in fitness? I first got started in fitness simply to get in shape. I didn't feel entirely comfortable in my own skin so I made the choice to change that. Years later is just part of my lifestyle, besides teaching fitness working out everyday is just part of my routine. Some people read the paper with their coffee in the morning, I workout.
|Zacharias Niedzwiecki teaching yoga|
3. Do you feel that being in shape helps you on stage?
I absolutely feel that being in shape helps many aspects of stage. I first started with vinyasa yoga. I read so many articles about singers who have worked out and became too tight to be successful in an operatic career. I didn't want that so I chose yoga as a way to tone and refine my movements. Being in shape allows in my opinion for you to have more bodily awareness on stage and at the same time look good doing it.
4. How do you respond to people who say that working out can restrict proper breathing for singers? As far as restricting proper breathing for singers I completely understand this thought, it's valid. For that reason I believe a work out regimen should be balanced. That's why I combine workouts in yoga, cycling, and interval training. Yoga itself is about breath and movement, lengthening the body and flexibility. Therefore I feel it is essential to incorporate yoga into all workouts routines. If and when I lift, I only lift so much that I can still have proper form and not so much weight that I ever strain. Regardless the voice should come first, if you notice something has begun to restrict your breath stop doing it.
5. Do you think the advent of HD broadcasts has changed the expectation of how a singer should look? Absolutely, I believe it has cause viewers to once again rethink this art form. Opera is an aural art form and a visual art form. With this in mind, it now being broadcasted, and our more health conscious society I feel the expectation have shifted for you to not only sound incredible, but for you to also look the role and look good doing it.
6. Are there any roles in particular that you really hope to get to perform someday? There are a couple, I would absolutely love to perform the role Hawkins Fuller from Fellow Travelers by Gregory Spears. The story is heart wrenching, the music is gorgeous and I would love to perform as a gay character. I would also like to perform the role of Escamillo from Carmen by Bizet.
7. What other passions do you have aside from music? I am an avid botanist, my apartment in Chicago is filled with plants. I really enjoy learning about plants and spending time researching about them. I feel growing up gardening vegetables and flower at home in Northern Michigan instilled this passion.
8. What do you listen to other than opera? I listen to all kinds of music. Teaching both yoga and cycling and having to make these very different playlists I have to listen to and search through a large variety of music. I really enjoy lately electronic house with female vocals and more chill ambient music like Olafur Arnalds.
9. Tell us something about yourself that people would be surprised to know. I took a year off from singing when I was 23 and became a research field technician of a Jaguar population density study in Panama. I lived there for about a year in the mountains, hiking everyday setting up camera traps along the mountain ridges.