Born in 1972 in Łódź, Poland, Tomasz Konieczny is the world’s leading bass-baritone of the young generation, specializing in German music. He first studied acting at the Łódź Film School, followed by vocal studies at the Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw and the Carl Maria von Weber Dresden University of Music under Professor Christian Elßner.
He made his acting debut in a film directed by the Academy Award winner Andrzej Wajda, The Ring with the Eagle, following which he worked as actor in many TV, film, and theatre productions in Poland, e.g. as Tristan in a TV adaptation of Tristan und Isolde by Krystyna Janda. He also directed Corneille’s Le Cid for the Adekwatny Theatre in Warsaw (1996).
Konieczny was a fellow of a range of Polish and German institutions, including Polish Ministry of Culture and Art (1997), the Alfred Toepfer Foundation (1998–2000), the Culture and Arts Foundation of the Stadtsparkasse Dresden (1999). In 1998 he won the 33rd Dvorak International Vocal Competition in Carlsbad. In 2004 Mannheim bestowed upon him the Arnold-Petersen Award, a special prize for outstanding young talents.
In December 1997 he made his operatic debut singing Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro at the Poznań Opera House in Poland. In January 1999 he debuted in Germany, singing Kecal in Smetana’s The Bartered Bride at the Leipzig Opera, which hired him for the 1999/2000 season soon after. In 2000 Konieczny was engaged by the Municipal Theatre in Lubeck, where he sang the following bass roles: Procida in Verdi’s I vespri siciliani (premiered in September 2000), Pandolfe in Massenet’s Cinderella (premiered in December 2000), Orest in Strauss’s Elektra (premiered in April 2001), Ramphis in Verdi’s Aida (premiered in November 2001), and all the significant bass-baritone roles in Shostakovich’s The Nose (premiered in March 2002).
At the same time he guested at the Theater St. Gallen, Switzerland (Procida), Theater Halle, Germany (Sarastro in Mozart’s Magic Flute), Theater Chemnitz, Germany (Pandolfe), National Theatre Mannheim (Colline in Puccini’s La bohème).
In 2002 he joined the ensemble of the National Theatre Mannheim, where the roles he sang included Orest, Pimen in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, Sarastro in The Magic Flute, King Marke in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Amfortas in Wagner’s Parsifal, Woltan in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, Osmin in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Grand Inquisiteur in Don Carlos, Melitone in La Forza del Destino and Jochananaan in Strauss’s Salome.
In 2005 Konieczny made a debut at the Stuttgart Opera as Sarastro, and in September 2006 at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf/Duisburg, singing Osmin. There he also sang Melitone in La Forza del Destino and Wotan in Das Rheingold (premiers in the spring of 2006). In March 2006 Konieczny made a debut at the Prague Opera, singing Giovanni da Procida in the premiere of I vespri siciliani.
From 2006 to 2014 Tomasz Konieczny was a member of the ensemble of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf/Duisburg, where he performed some important leading roles, such as Bottom in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde, Golaud in Debussy’s Pelleas et Mélisande, Selim in Il Turco in Italia, Amfortas in Parsifal, Barak in Die Frau ohne Schatten, Balstrode in Peter Grimes, Holländer in Der Fliegende Holländer, Falstaff, and Escamillio in Carmen.
In June 2006 Konieczny made a debut in Budapest at the first Wagner in Budapest Festival, where he sang Amfortas under the baton of Adam Fischer. In 2007 and 2009 he returned to Budapest to sing Woltan in Die Walküre, and in 2010 – Kurwenal and Wanderer in Siegfried, again under Adam Fischer.
In October 2007 he made his debut at the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall as Eremit in Der Freischütz under Antoni Wit, and in January 2008 – at the Semperoper Dresden as Alberich in Der Ring des Nibelungen under Peter Schneider. In the same year he appeared for the first time at the Teatro Real Madrid, where he sang Dr Kolenaty in Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Janáček’s The Makropulos Affair.
In April 2010 he made a sensational debut as Alberich at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. In May/June 2010 he returned to the Prague Opera to sing Kurwenal in the premiere of Tristan und Isolde. Also in 2010 he debuted in The Tales of Hoffman as the four incarnations of evil at the National Theatre in Prague, where he achieved spectacular success the next year with his creation of Amfortas.
In 2011 he made his debut as Biterolf in Tannhäuser at Opéra National de Paris, and in 2012 as Pizarro in a concert version of Fidelio with the NSO Washington under Christoph Eschenbach. In the summer of 2012 he sang at the Salzburger Festspiele as well as appearing as Stolzius in Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Soldaten, named the opera of the century. In September 2012 he sang Pizarro at the Bayerische Staatsoper München.
In 2013 he recored for two important CD productions of Der Ring des Nibelungen: as Wotan under Marek Janowski (Pentatone Classics) and as Alberich under Christian Thielemann (Deutsche Grammophon). A precedence on the music market, both recordings were highly commended by critics and audiences alike. At the beginning of 2014 Konieczny made a brilliant debut at the Carnegie Hall as Jochanaan in a concert version of Salome, while in the summer he returned to the Salzburger Festspiele to sing Commendatore in Don Giovanni. Next year he sang Pizzaro in Fidelio at the Salzburger Festspiele. The year 2015 saw the release of another recording of Das Rheingold under Sir Simon Rattle. In October 2015 Konieczny debuted at the Lyric Opera, Chicago, singing Wozzeck. American press was unanimous in praising the production and the performance of the Pole singing the title role.
The Vienna State Opera has practically been Konieczny’s artistic home since 2009. His roles there include: Jack Rance in La Fanciulla del West, Alberich and Wotan in Der Ring des Nibelungen, Amfortas in Parsifal, Holländer in Der Fliegende Holländer, Scarpia in Tosca, Mandryka in Arabella, Jochanaan in Salome. He is one of the Viennese audience’s favourites.
His repertoire also includes oratorios, which he has performed under Kent Naganow (Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 2006), Marek Janowski (Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Berlin, December 2008), Daniele Gatti (Verdi’s Requiem, Musikverein Wien), Krzysztof Penderecki (Seven Gates of Jerusalem, autumn of 2009 and spring of 2010; St. Luke Passion, March/April 2010 with Sinfonia Varsovia).
In the nearest future, he will take to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, La Scala, Opera Bastille in Paris, Staatsoper Wien, and at the Saltzburger Festspiele.
(photo: Klaudia Taday)