HIsTORy fOR THE AGEs
The International Vocal Competition ’s-Hertogenbosch has a proud history. It is with great pride that we present that history in a new and accessible, digital way. This digital format enables music lovers like you to find details of past competitions, winners and jurys. It has been a work of love and dedication. The same love and dedication go into the enduring art of enrapturing audiences with the mastery of the human voice, in combination with a piano or an orchestra. Just how much we need that magic and the connection with the stage has become
even clearer in the last one and a half years. We are confident that we will be adding many future chapters to this book. And we hope to take you with us on that journey. For now: enjoy our past achievements in this new way. And we look forward to welcoming you to our future competitions.
With best wishes,
René Seghers author Dick Bak art director
This 2022 edition of the retrospect on the International Vocal Competition ’s-Hertogenbosch (IVC) combines the complete results per year with anecdotes, press reviews, recollections of participants, organisation and audience, while still providing some of the stunning career retrospects that defined the 2014 IVC Jubilee Book.
This new edition follows the IVC through the decades from its spectacular rise in the 1950s through its adolescence in the 1960s, and from there into its early adulthood in the 1970s. With the victory of Nelly Miricioiù in 1979 and the arrival of Thomas Hampson in 1980, the competition reached the point where participants are still known to date. By then the IVC was established as one of the world’s most renowned international vocal competitions. The 1980s and 1990s saw dazzling changes in the competition, that ultimately lost some ground. From 2002 onwards the IVC regained its former stature. Step by step, the book makes clear what vocal competitions, certainly this one, are all about. That goes beyond mere ‘winning’. Timing is everything in competitions. Some won only at their third attempt. Others didn’t win and still found the right path. Some winners were never heard off again. The book aims to look into the mechanism behind any given career.
About 70% of the pictures in the 2014 Jubilee Book were black & white photographs. A key feature in the book is that it is full colour from the start in 1954 onwards.
Combining Artificial Intelligence with Photoshop enabled me to reconstruct the original colours. With respect to the technique, people ask me sometimes, ‘how can one possibly know the original colours?’ At the same time no one questions the ability of a black & white camera to convert three dimensional colour reality to two dimensional greyscales. Artificial Intelligence merely calculates those greyscales in reverse, back to the original colour. While the technique is complex and still in need of much manual editing, the logic behind it is simple.
D E s IGNING THE BOO k
Thanks to graphic designer Dick Bak, designing the book was perhaps the fun part in the process. Dick never ceased to come up with new details and inventive suggestions to make things look ever better. Fortunately, my editor Diana Starr was less fun to work with. Being a good editor she went at my texts with an axe, lots of red and scolding exclamation marks. When I started this book I thought I was doing a great job. Now I know that I’m just the writer in the background who has spent a lot of time in archives. Much of what you will see and read I owe to Diana and Dick.
This volume will be augmented with the 2004-2022 part in April/May 2022. We present the first 48 years here as a gift in very difficult times for classical music, opera and theatre as such.
Since its emergence in 1954, the International Vocal Competition ‘s-Hertogenbosch (IVC) held annually in the Dutch province of Brabant has risen to international prominence. During its almost seven decades in existence, the IVC has been continuously challenged to keep up with the constantly changing demands in the world of opera and song. It had to battle public opinion, critical reception, internal conflicts, theatres on the verge of collapse and, recently, the covid pandemic that hit all of the musical world in 2019. The only aspect that never changed was IVC’s original mission to provide opportunities for young singers to test themselves and launch their careers. Those who started international careers participating in ‘s-Hertogenbosch range from Elly Ameling in 1956 to Pretty Yende in 2008. Many singers from the last two editions, including Nadine Koutcher and Gulnara Shafigullina, are now making the rounds in Europe. We can only measure the results of the past few competitions in a few years from now, which we will gladly do in updates of this e-book.
This adventurous retrospect revives the IVC’s many remarkable moments and colorful highlights ranging from the participants to the jury, the press, the audience, the hosting families and the master classes, which all started almost 70 years ago when the Dutch city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch (also called ‘Den Bosch’) organized the first local vocal
competition. Located in the Southern province of Brabant, ‘s-Hertogenbosch originally set out to organize a Benelux competition. The instant success of that competition made two things clear: shortly after World War II there weren’t many opportunities for young singers to show themselves to potential theatre directors and impresarios and the event provided new possibilities for the promotion of Brabant as a travel destination.
The first competition in 1954 instantly produced winners that dominated the Dutch and Belgian vocal scene for the next two decades. The second competition was already an international competition and by 1956 the IVC discovered its first international star, soprano Elly Ameling.
The IVC was among the first vocal competitions that gave winners possibilities to perform with full orchestra in the Winner’s Gala, with the winners awarded broadcasting contracts. Winners were sometimes awarded with official vinyl releases and when technology changed, they were awarded with CD releases.
Many winners retired after successful careers and became jurors themselves, such as Elly Ameling and Nelly Miricioiu, both of whom also gave master classes, along with Magda Olivero, Renata Scotto, Evelyn Lear and Thomas Stewart.
A ND THE w INNER s ARE … ‘s–Hertogenbosch’s warm-hearted and melomaniac population embraced the festival from the beginning. They flocked to all of the rounds open to the public and also hosted participants
in their private homes, often resulting in life-long friendships. Naturally, their favorite singer was always the participant they hosted, which resulted in wild cheering and bravos, even if these cheers weren’t always fully justified.
There have also been legendary disputes between the juries and the audience at large. Disputes that only now, decades later, can be put in the proper perspective since it usually takes a least one decade before it is known who had the better ear. Where the press joined the audience in their opinion, the temperature in Den Bosch’s Casino Hall could rise to levels that the usually cool, calm and collected Dutch were not accustomed to, like when public and press favorites Olga Maddalena (1961/62/63) and Geraldine Hackett-Jones (1969) were rejected by the jurors. There were also cases where the jury, press and audience unanimously hailed the next Caruso, Chaliapin or Melba, but nothing was heard about them since. The IVC has over 100 first, second and other prize winners that enjoyed major international careers and worldwide fame, such as Elly Ameling, Yvonne Minton, Jules Bastin, Richard Novak, Viorica Cortez, Ileana Cotrubaş, Siegmund Nimsgern, Marina Krilovici, Maria Slatinaru, Robert Holl, Thomas Thomaschke, Laszlo Polgar, Mitsuko Shirai, Nelly Miricioiu, Thomas Hampson, Elżbieta Szmytka, Leontina Vaduva, Andrea Rost, Adrianne Pieczonka, Claron McFadden, Petra Lang, Sophie Koch, Karina Gauvin, Lenneke Ruiten and Pretty Yende.
N BOCCA AL LUPO
Press coverage of the IVC in its first decades was overwhelming. Every national and regional newspaper and magazine covered the competition. Radio stations and soon also television aired parts, complete rounds or the Winner’s Gala. Until the late 1960s, a handful of critics continuously attacked the competition in reviews that at
times resulted in uprisings among their readers. Enraged letters of protest forced some of these publications to publish apologies and replace critics. At the height of this critic crisis in 1961, the press was booed by the audience in the hall. There were also perils within the organization. Some plush loving jurors and officials in the first decades eventually had to be removed from their comfortable seats to make way for jurors and officials with more modern views.
All of these challenging situations that once threatened the existence of the IVC are now colorful parts of its fascinating history. It is never the crisis that matters, it’s how you rise to the next challenge. To this day, the competition managed to persevere in a world that went from a handful of vocal competitions in 1954 to at least one hundred vocal competitions today worldwide. Applications to participate in the IVC rose from 60 to 130 in the first decades to over 700 for recent competitions, forcing the competition to hold pre-auditions online.
M A s TER CLA ss E s AND j URIE s
Early summer courses near ‘s-Hertogenbosch eventually developed into the IVC’s master classes that became famous in the early 1990s, when internationally-known celebrities Magda Olivero, Renata Scotto and Christa Ludwig came to ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Those master classes rank very high among the highlights in the history of the IVC. One of the IVC’s strong points has always been to secure juries of international prominence, perhaps never as strong as in recent years, when several influential theatre directors (Ioan Holender, Evamaria Wieser) joined forces with legendary singers in the jury (Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Siegfried Jerusalem). Nearly all of the winners from recent competitions have thriving careers in their homelands, including participants from Argentina, Canada, Japan, Russia and continental Europe.Magda Olivero teaches Angelique Zijde, 1993 Juror Grace Bumbry 2000 Annett Andriesen, IVC director 2007-2019
A VOCAL ROLLERCOAsTER fOR OVER sEVEN DECADEs
1954 TO 2022 wELCOME TO THE INTERNATIONAL VOCAL COMPETITION ‘s-HERTOGENBOsCHChrista Ludwig Masterclass with Miriam Sharoni, 1995 Master class Nelly Miricioiù 2012
1954 Annette de la Bije
EMERGING VICTORIOUs fROM THE PERILs Of wAR
In Mendelssohn’s ‘Es ist genug,’ and especially in the ‘Confutatis maledictus’ from the Verdi Requiem, one marveled at his voluminous, warm voice, which was used with great musicality.” (Gooi & Ommeland, September 27, 1954)
“The person who revealed the deepest emotions was the soprano Annette de la Bije. One will not easily forget the way she sang the ‘Incarnatus est,’ so beautiful, intimate and eloquent as her voice sounded here. She also sang an aria from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.” (Dutch newspaper, September 27, 1954)
“We delighted in the crystal-clear, very melodious and musical soprano Annette de la Bije, who will no doubt become a great soprano.” (Dutch newspaper, September 27, 1954)
“Annette de la Bije sang serenely, warmly and brightly […] Hers was a deeply moving interpretation. [...] She enraptured us.” Gooi & Ommeland, September 27, 1954)
Singing was the heart’s delight of Dutch soprano Annette de la Bije (1927 - 2014). Born
Annette de Graaf, her gift was first discovered by a teacher at her high school, but in the middle of World War II her father wanted a second opinion. When internationally famous Dutch alto Jo Vincent confirmed her talent, Annette was sent to study in The Hague. Her studies came to an early end in 1943, when traveling became impossible due to the war. De la Bije: “Only after the war I continued my studies. When I began to perform my teacher recommended that I take the maiden name of my mother as stage name, De la Bije, since that sounded more glamourous.”
singers: “It was quite challenging since you had to sing song, opera and oratorio. It did help a bit that the jury chose what to sing from a list of repertoire submitted by yourself. But most importantly: I figured that if you made it through to the next round, you were already on the verge of the finals!”
De la Bije had little singing experience and the competition was her first serious attempt to force a career breakthrough: “The newspapers dubbed me an ‘undiscovered talent’ and the victory had a huge impact on my prospects. Previously had to beg conductors for auditions and after my victory they suddenly came to me! That very evening famous conductor Lodewijk de Vocht invited me to sing Brahms’s Deutsches Requiem with him in Brussels. I eagerly accepted and when he mentioned my fee I gasped: ‘So much?!’ My impresario then took me aside and taught me rule Nr. 1 in the music business, to never show any emotion at the hight of any given fee. I should nod lightly and pretend it was normal. Well, that lesson was not wasted wasted on me!”
ooking for opportunities to advance her budding career, De la Bije’s eye fell on a newspaper that announced a vocal Benelux competition in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the fall of 1954. She was accepted and recalled her arrival in the company of many young
In the decades following her IVC victory, De la Bije sang with the Dutch National Opera and performed throughout Europe in concert, opera and oratorio, the latter genre then being at the height of its popularity. De la Bije: “You could perform in Passions from January to December continuously then, there simply was no end to the demand. You kept Easter and Christmas free for as long as possible, waiting for the highest bidder and then you had to figure out a way to decline those you had previously put on hold without offending them.”n Aukje Karsemeyer, Annette de la Bije, Mayor Hans Loeff of Den Bosch
“The singer that enchanted us most was Hans Wilbrink, whose voice reminds us of Herman Schey. … This young singer from Utrecht will certainly become a bass of European standing.
1955 Albert van Haasteren
“Albert van Haasteren had no trouble singing himself into the final […] and revealed a distinct disposition for the world of opera.” Leo Hanekroot, De Tijd, September 6, 1955)
For those who saw only the IVC Gala Concert, the final results must have appeared strange ... one wondered why Van Haasteren was given only a Second Prize.” (W.B., Het Huisgezin, October 10, 1955)
CONTRACT ON THE sPOT
“At the Gala Concert Van Haasteren surpassed himself with ‘Ella giammai m’amo.’ (Leo Hanekroot, De Tijd, October 10, 1955)
When Rotterdam born bass Albert van Haasteren (1928) was awarded second prize at the 1955 International Vocal Competition, he had just started studying opera in Amsterdam. That his name no longer sounds familiar in the world of Dutch opera is largely due to his immediate success. Despite his limited training, he so impressed juror and renowned conductor, Alexander Krannhals, that the latter offered him an immediate contract to perform at the Karslruhe Opera House.
Van Haasteren hesitated to accept the surprising offer since he had never considered a professional singing career: “I had just married and wanted to talk this over with my wife. Apart from leaving a secure profession behind, going to work in Germany was not a decision you took lightly in 1955, especially if you came from Rotterdam. witnessed the German bombing of the city with my own eyes. At age 18 I had been captured by the Germans and was send to a forced labor facility in Thüringen where had to help assemble
their VI rocket platforms. Apart from all that, I was just a beginner. Krannhals knew his trade though: I was 1.85 tall, had a voice and knew how to move. went as far as to practice ballet, fencing and martial arts. Without stage presence you will have a difficult life in opera.”
A DVENTUROU s w f E
When Van Haasteren’s wife proved enthusiastic about the adventure, the bass began making demands: “I wouldn’t come if Karlsruhe didn’t provide a house. When I went there to examine things, said I wouldn’t come if they didn’t fix the house, which was a bit worn to my taste. When they did all I asked had no option but to go there. In 1956, I went to Karlsruhe and became one of those singers who learned their trade on stage, before an audience.”
fROM PAsT TO PREsENT
From past to present, Van Haasteren believes that any aspiring singer should take opportunities like the ones he was given: “In a short time span I met an enormous number of fascinating and creative people. In a German ensemble theatre, you quickly pick up a variety of roles. However, singers should ultimately be realistic. had a number of trump cards up my sleeve but was not born to become first bass in Vienna or Berlin. When my voice developed from bass to baritone, I had to make a choice. Karlsruhe already had two first baritones. When they offered me a position as third baritone went to Heidelberg instead. That was a smaller theatre but would be first baritone there, singing all the principle parts instead of the two line bits. I sang there for twenty years, until 1983, appearing in 126 opera and operetta roles.”n Jean Capiaux, Arjan Blanken, Eva Bornemann, and Albert van Haasteren
“That the 33-yearold Czechoslovakian bass Ladislav Mráz would be crowned as best singer of the competition was clear from the start. He had already been active for 15 years, the last eight as an operatic star in the National Theatre Prague.” (Vrije Volk, September 20, 1965)
ONE sHOULD NOT ExPECT TOO MUCH IN THIs TRADE
“Past her stage fright she was much admired in the Gala concert. Both her artistry and her light-hearted conversational tone were admirable.” (De Tijd on Elly Ameling’s 1956 IVC victory)
While Ladislav Mráz (grand prize winner) was already famous in the Czech republic, the IVC victory of Elly Ameling (first prize winner cum laude) launched her into a stunning international career in song. At the press conference before the Winner’s Gala Ameling did not have a clue about her future and when asked what she expected of her career she answered, “I believe one should not expect too much in this trade, but rather seek to work harder.”
T he word “trade” and her no-nonsense approach already sounded natural and convincing coming from Ameling’s lips, as she did when she became a world-famous soprano, then a juror and taught master classes. But back in 1956, she was surprised by the result that she had won. She was still a girl with just six years of study and madly in love with her little dog. She had previously only appeared in a provincial performance of Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion, a Debutants Gala in a museum and on Dutch radio program singing a few songs by Duparc. She mused, “I hadn’t expected the outcome. The previous two editions were Dutch-Belgian oriented, but now there was serious international competition, and I was the only Dutch finalist.”
N ERVE s
Ameling didn’t come to Den Bosch with great expectations, since
experience had taught her that hope was usually shattered. She did arrive prepared though: “You need a lot of self-confidence to put yourself on that stage. The worst is the waiting afterwards, while you have absolutely no clue about the result. Regardless of my nerves, I have great memories of Den Bosch. What surprised me most was that the many German participants hardly made it to the finals. The English singers there against me proved a revelation.”
I w ANT TO BECOME A CONCERT s INGER
Of her future plans, Ameling said: “I want to become a concert singer and would also like to appear in opera. have a certain preference for Mozart, since in his music has everything. He always makes you happy. Please, do mention my accompanist, Janine van Mever, also from Rotterdam! She stood by me in a superb manner!”
T HE s ECRET TO LONGEVIT y
A wise and introspective artist, Ameling never went beyond her natural vocal boundaries. Her final radio recordings of the 1990's still show her in full control. When she bade farewell to the stage in 1996, her career spanned a full 40 years, during which she had become one of the world's most prominent concert singers and perhaps the most prolific song recording artist of her day with over 50 original LP recordings. Her radio recordings were re-issued in the CD era and re-issues of her catalogue continue to be published today.
LAURELs fOR Maria van Dongen
TURN Of THE TIDE fOR THE IVC
“We met Maria van Dongen before the jury’s verdict was rendered, and she appeared incredibly nervous. Now and then she erupted in a scale. …” (De Telegraaf, September 19, 1957)
The 4th competition of the IVC in 1954 saw it change from a spontaneous novelty to a national institute held in “the wrong city”. A vocal competition of international standing should have been conveniently located in Amsterdam, but as almost by accident, local authorities in Brabant had established an internationally successful vocal competition overnight – in Den Bosch. And worse, thanks to a juror who was the CEO of a Dutch National Radio broadcaster, the Winners’ Galas were aired on television, which compelled journalists to make the journey to Brabant. Suddenly critics in every local and national publication were determined to cover the competition.
This response was, in part, intrinsic to the success of the first few competitions. The unexpected numbers of international participants and the discovery of national and international stars such as Annette de la Bije, Arjan Blanken, Eva Bornemann, Ladislav Mráz, Halina Lukomska and Elly Ameling heightened expectations.
Instead of waiting two to five years before judging the outcome of any given edition, critics suddenly began acting as supra jurors, proclaiming everything wrong from the criteria to the organization, the jury and the outcome. Admittedly, it was odd to see no first prize awarded in 1956, while second prize winner Maria van Dongen was given the crowning Great Prize of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. That went back to a misunderstanding about the Great Prize of the City, which was merely the prize awarded on behalf of the city whereas the suggested that it was the prize for the best singer in all.
T HE DREAM s O f M ARIA
“I dream of performing with great artists at famous festivals. To learn from them. Not to imitate, you should cherish your own talents. […] Some want to turn my voice into something else,
something bigger or otherwise. People want so much – who knows what is right? Ultimately, you have to understand your own limits and nurture your specific talents.” (Maria van Dongen, 1957)
Aspiring singers should take comfort in knowing that critics’ predictions on diamonds in the rough are usually not supported by time. Most 1957 critics thought Polish soprano Gabriela Obremba-Wajda was surely a future international star, while some judged Van Dongen hardly worth second prize. Time proved them wrong. Of all the participants in 1957, only Van Dongen achieved an international career performing the principal parts in Così fan tutte, Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Der Freischütz, Der fliegende Holländer, Die Walküre, La traviata, Un ballo in maschera, Aïda, Otello, Tosca, Der Rosenkavalier and Ariadne auf Naxos in principal opera houses in Frankfurt, Milan, Vienna, Berlin and Salzburg and many other cities.
T OUGH CHOICE s
Regardless of the happy outcome for Van Dongen, the overwhelming criticism directed at the organization and the jury forced changes. An almost exclusive Dutch jury for an international competition was no longer sustainable. In addition to Elisabeth Höngen and Roy Henderson for the German and Anglo-Saxon participants, jurors with knowledge of the Slavic voices also became necessary and thus the ‘I’ in International was no longer limited to the participants alone. Some founding jurors had to make room for others, never an easy process for those who felt they owned the competition’s success, like radio director Manus Willemsen, who remained as president of the jury for decades.
Whereas Willemsen managed to consolidate his position until the early 1970s, Dutch jurors of these founding years such as tenor Frans Vroons, alto Annie Woud, conductor Hein Jordans and choir conductor Frans van Amelsfoort were less sure of their future within the jury.
“Gabriela ObrembaWajda of Warsaw was by far the best singer at the competition in Den Bosch, yet she received just an honorary diploma. Time will tell if the jury was right.” (Cornelis Basoski, Nieuwe Haagsche Courant, September 19, 1957)
Bernard Kruysen, Evelyn Lear and... no
THE GREAT LEAP fORwARD
“A beautiful, yet slightly feminine-sounding baritone who couldn’t keep up with the best. Technically Bernard Kruysen has a lot going for him, but in terms of musicality he has a lot to learn, if not everything. He twists and turns his voice without direction. Dutch singers suffer from a chamber mentality – do they ever listen to great foreign interpreters?”
(Leo Hanekroot, De Tijd, September 1958)
Amidst another storm of criticism from the press, the IVC in 1958 marked the competition’s ultimate international breakthrough with the recognition of the soon to be very successful singers Halina Słonicka, Ranken Bushby, Alida Legué, Elisabeth Simon, Maria Antonietta Sighele, Bernard Kruysen and the now legendary soprano Evelyn Lear, who was awarded an honorary diploma. With so many voices discovered that year there wasn’t enough room to recognize the IVCs first, soon to be international tenor star, Michele Molese, who made it to the finals without even achieving an honorary diploma.
Though not all of the names mentioned above will be recognizable to participants of the 2022 competition, the names illustrate how ever changing the vocal landscape is of any given time. They were all stars in their own right, either internationally, or in their own country, such as first and great prize winner Elisabeth Simon. All of them made significant vinyl recordings in the twenty years that followed the competition. Some, like Lear and Kruysen recorded well into the 1980s, both wellknown artists in opera and song (Lear) or song (Kruysen). Singers today can only hope to achieve the career successes that all of these singers had.
IVC, ODER DE s ä NGER k RIEG AU f DEM C A s INO
Over the proceedings
semi-finalists. How could such gripping criticism emerge in what now stands as one of the golden years in the IVC’s entire history? The answer is simple: the future is not ours to see and yet history is full of clairvoyants. That quality is officially given to the jury and officiously claimed by audience and press. What the press achieved by taking sides was the mobilization of the audience in Den Bosch’s Casino Hall. Those who previously had attended a friendly voice competition among youngsters who were housed and fed by local families gradually visited a battlefield in which press and public “judged” the jury. The press in publications, the audience in applause or roaring dislike. Jury and organization found their intentions ridiculed, their opinions opposed and their control over the competition challenged. It was open war in the casino.
E VELy N L EAR
Only one newspaper mentioned that those who received honorary diplomas had performed exceptionally well, among them Evelyn Lear, who went on to fame for her performance of Berg’s Lulu She sang more than 40 operatic roles at the San Francisco Opera, La Scala, Covent Garden, the Paris Opéra, the Vienna State Opera, the Berlin, Hamburg and Munich Operas, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, the Canadian Opera and the Hollywood Bowl, as well as at festivals in Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Salzburg, Munich, Florence and Tanglewood. She set new standards in Berg, Schoenberg and Richard Strauss and made her New York Metropolitan Opera debut in 1967 in the world premiere of Marvin David Levy’s Mourning Becomes Electra.
T HE TREMBLING VOICE
results of the
press. Results were booed
pandemonium broke out among audience
that weren’t to any given critic’s liking were being ridiculed in the press, even when just
Tenor Michele Molese gave his first striking reply to Dutch critic Leo Riemens when he made a triumphant Concertgebouw debut within weeks from the critic’s remark in the quote section on this page. Molese went on to become the star of the New York City Opera for a decade, singing all the great lyric-dramatic tenor roles.
“American-inAmsterdam Michele Molese had a tremulous tenor voice with a cheap timbre. Impossible to understand how he passed to the finals.”
(Leo Riemens, De Telegraaf, September 1958)
(Leo Hanekroot, De Tijd, September 11, 1959)
“The first soprano in the semifinals was Helga Dernesch, from Vienna, who seems to have arrived a little too early here. In fact, I wonder how she even made it to these semifinals: voice and musicality were completely insufficient.’ Johan van Dongen, Brabants Dagblad, September 1959)
As if in reply to previous criticism, the IVC press conference pointed to last year’s winner Maria Antonietta Sighele who meanwhile made her La Scala debut, while the 1956 winners, Elly Ameling and Ladislav Mráz, were rapidly conquering their respective countries. Within six years, the IVC was on par with prestigious vocal competitions in Geneva, Munich and Verviers. The press conference speech was topped with a mention that the 1959 competition witnessed a record 104 participants from 17 countries, which caused the preliminary rounds to be extended to three full days.
Confronted with these indisputable success stories and with the president of the jury addressing participants fluently in 5 languages, the press quieted down for the competition. Interviewing each semi-finalist for various newspapers and magazines, the IVC-experience was suddenly back at the heart of the essays: “The bel canto lovers in the auditorium reveled in the luxury of so many voices to sample, the best of the new harvest. An annual fun fair, for those who have the virus called bel cantissimo.”
A CHAT w ITH Z ENON kO s NO fsk I
Having just received an engagement for the Danzig Opera, Polish baritone Zenon Kosnofski was not at all nervous at about the semi-finals. Recalling the situation for Polish singers he said: “In Poland anyone studying opera has talent, otherwise they would not have found official support. Likewise, we can’t just travel to Vocal Competitions abroad. We will only be allowed to travel to a competition like the IVC once we are ready, since the Ministry of
Culture pays for our travel and expenses. I expect a new golden age for Polish singers also because the new State Opera of Warszaw will open its doors in 1962. They need us! Oh, and would you please also write that the hotel they provided us with is excellent!”H OTEL D E P O s TZEGEL (T HE sTAMP )
Kosnofski wasn’t alone in his opinion of the hotel. First prize winner Zofia JanukowiczPoblocka published a newspaper advertisement on behalf of all participants that had stayed there, which spelled:
“The IVC participants who resided in Hotel De Postzegel herewith thank the staff and the personnel for the excellent treatment and care they have given us.”
sETTLING THE s CORE
The 1959 6th annual IVC competition discovered the Swiss great prize winner Arthur Loosli and Dutch baritone Max van Egmond who both went onto successful international careers. Van Egmond received the encouragement prize in a stand-off with Dutch soprano Wilma Driessen, who also went on to a successful career. Polish soprano Zofia Janukowicz-Pobłocka became a star behind the Iron Curtain and Belgians Mariëtte Dierckx, Kamiel Lampaert and Lia Rottier became household names at the Flemish Opera.
N O H ELGA D ERNE s H (y ET )
Amidst so much talent, one newspaper focused on a singer that didn’t belong in such a promising environment:
“The first soprano in the semifinals was Helga Dernesch from Vienna, who seems to have arrived here a little too early. In fact, wonder how she even made it to these semifinals: voice and musicality were completely insufficient.” (Johan van Dongen, Brabants Dagblad, September 1959.)
“Max van Egmond puts notes on display in an almost exhibitionist manner, and he still has to learn how to sing from the heart. Give it a little more edge in the high register and he will be there.”
Jindrich JindrákJohn Wakefield
A GHOsT wINNER A TENOR AT LAsT AND A MODERN MUsIC sOPRANO
“It is wonderful to have a beautiful voice that bends to one’s will in terms of technique but in the end a voice is only a means to an end, an instrument that should bring specific music to life. A Jury that would merely judge voices would be missing the point. What matters most is what any given singer achieves with his instrument – can they answer to the higher calling of the music?” (N. W., Dutch newspaper clipping, September 1960).
The 7TH annual IVC in 1960 began the international careers of tenor John Wakefield and French soprano Lise Arséguet, who became a renowned specialist in 20th Century concert repertoire. Dutch bass Bert Olsson had a prospering career in Flanders and the Netherlands, as did Icelandic tenor Sigurdur Björnsson, Polish soprano Irene TorbusMierzwiak and the Czech bass Jindrich Jindrák in their native countries. Surprisingly, Hungarian bass and great prize winner Károly Schmidt’s career is a complete mystery. Apart from a Kodaly/Bártok folk song recording he is the first among a handful of “ghost winners.”
Anovelty in this edition of the IVC was the then very modern composer Olivier Messiaen being propagated by Lise Arséguet. N.W. praised the 1960 jurors for, “acknowledging beautiful voices, while choosing those with a true artistic calling.”
D EATH O f THE ALTO
While not all world-class singers participate in the same competition at once, audience and critics draw the wildest conclusions from largely random results, based on who participate at which point in their development. With no prize in the alto category being awarded, the breed of altos, once a pillar of Dutch oratorio culture was proclaimed “extinct”. Concert organizers were to fear that these parts would soon have to be rewritten for other voice types, as once had to be done with the castrato parts of the 18th Century, after these became “extinct” in a more fortunate way. Luckily the
previous candidate for extinction, the tenor, always on the verge of collapse, made a stunning come-back with John Wakefield and Sigurdur Björnsson.
A w ORD ON THE w INNER s
Hungarian bass Károly Schmidt proved a favorite with the Casino audience in the famous bass arias from Le nozze di Figaro and Boris Godunov. Bert Olsson, the only Dutch singer who was judged worthy of a prize, was frenetically cheered following his rendition of the ‘Prologo’ from Pagliacci . The only point of discrepancy between audience and Jury was to be seen in the soprano part, where first prize winner Lise Arséguet sang Ravel’s song cycle “Shéhérazade” from score to the point where she forgot to make contact with the audience. This resulted in louder applause for second prize winner Irene Torbus-Mierzwiak, who impressed with volume. According to one critic, Arséguet had however picked the greater artistic challenge and gave the deeper interpretation: “Although such festive concerts call for operatic bonbons, it testified for Arséguet’s artistic intelligence that she didn’t succumb to the temptation to compete in areas where her heart-warming voice could not travel. Following John Wakefield’s ‘Cielo e mar’, it is a mystery to us why he hasn’t been awarded first prize in the tenor category. A glorious voice, and a singer with utmost musical intelligence.”
D UTCH O PERA P RIZE
Winning either in Den Bosch was the equivalent of landing a gold or silver medal in any given European gymnastic tournament. But the winner of the 1960 IVC’s new Dutch Opera Prize won something more immediate and exciting than just a medal— a performance in a leading role with the Dutch National Opera ensemble! This resulted in a number of later international stars making an early debut in Amsterdam.
(Johan van Dongen, Eindhoven’s Dagblad, September 1960)n John Wakefield, Lise Arséguet, Bert Olsson, Károly Schmidt, Irene Torbus-Mierzwiak, Sigurdur Björnsson.
TROUBLE IN 's-HERTOGENBOsCH
With the still growing fame of the International Vocal Competition ‘s-Hertogenbosch, some reporters took their differences with the jury to unprecedented levels of insult. By 1961, the directors of the IVC felt compelled to make a public appeal to the press to stop attacking individual participants while the competition was still running. Although the plea was made to journalist in general, it was mostly directed towards Leo Riemens (co-author of the renowned Kutsch-Riemens “Sängerlexikon”), who had on ongoing a personal vendetta with the IVC (that never offered him a prestigious spot on the jury). When the audience greeted the anti-press plea with a standing ovation, the press finally discovered how it felt to be criticized and dubbed the IVC director “a warmonger” for pointing criticism back at them.
THE VOICE Of A CORPsEYvonne
T he appeal to the press did not have the desired effect. Riemens now wrote with a butcher’s knife in his fist: “Whoever thought that the IVC would have changed things following the catastrophic edition of last year, was deceived. The jury awarded the First Prize to a singer who went against all rules. Another blunder: a Polish bass sang a soprano aria from Die Krönungsmesse, which the jury accepted!”
Still not satisfied, Riemens trashed participants: “Boring. […] Shouldn’t have been allowed to pass. […] Naïve. […] Mediocre. […] A debutant who might perhaps pass to the first year in a Conservatory. […] A Queen of the Night who had nothing below her two High F’. […] A barely legal German soprano.”
All these qualifications were pinned on individual young singers, sometimes mere participants not even finalists. Those who believe that giving this critic a spot on the jury would have been a strategic move to pacify him, should know that both Riemens’s character and his past as a marked NAZI collaborator during the war prevented it.
T HE f ORTUNE TELLER s O f ‘s-H ERTOGENBO s CH
With hindsight, the continuing success of the IVC precisely proved its weak spot in the early 1960s. Once radio and television embraced the event, journalists started judging participants as if they were recitalist at Carnegie Hall rather than conservatory graduates. Based on only three pieces with piano accompaniment, some participants were marked as “complete failures”, while others were hailed as “sure world stars”. Such judgments were preposterous. To pick the day’s winner or recognize a beautiful timbre is one thing, forging a career is an entirely different enterprise.
The 1961 competition had Australian soprano Ettie Holt as the favorite of both the audience and the press, while the jury didn’t even merit her an honorary diploma. Time certainly did not always side with the jury, but in this case time proved the jury right. Coming from the practice of singing, conducting, producing or teaching jurors had and have the advantage of being able to judge from basics, as in “technique”. While technical ability does not provide any guarantees for later success, insufficient technique is a guarantee for failure on any professional stage. Any given audience habitually listens in the moment, while a jury primarily looks for future possibilities. That this is a challenging task with just piano accompaniment to judge from is highlighted by the number of times when the orchestra accompanied Gala Concert of the Winners has shifted the audience’s preference from first to second prize winners.
yVONNE M INTON , THE VOICE O f A CORP s E …
What the jury, audience and press all had in common was that they never doubted their point of view and many of the predictions made by these “fortune tellers” now make for fun reading. For example when critic Leo Hanekroot judged the jury incompetent for handing a first prize to an Australian alto who he declared had the emotional impact of a corpse (Yvonne Minton). According to Hanekroot, the winner should have been the brilliant Australian soprano, Ettie Holt. In an article titled “Is IVC becoming a farce”, Brabants Dagblad dubbed Minton’s first prize an insult to Kathleen Ferrier, whose name then graced the first prize in the alto category. To choose Minton over “the brilliant Margaret Duckworth” was deemed, “absurd”.
From today’s perspective, it may be shocking to hear the tone of some of the more colorful reviews while at the same time one can only wish for such heated discussions on vocal competitions today. Some papers were then forced to apologize for their negative coverage after a string of reader complaints arrived at their offices, including many requests to cancel subscriptions.
The 8th IVC was the most successful competition of the eight. Attendance and media coverage peaked. With Yvonne Minton, the 8th IVC had picked among the winners its first soon to be world famous operatic superstar.
the semifinals and finals performances of Olga Maddalena were an event that, if one had to describe it in terms of song, can
be compared with the
goes by the name
Jules Bastin ON HUMAN kINDNEss…
“The Belgian bass had learned from his mistakes of the year before. He sang in a natural and controlled manner that enabled him to make the best of his qualities, such as in the remarkably sung scene of Arkel from Pelléas et Mélisande and in ‘Quoniam tu solus sanctus’ from Bach’s ‘Mass in B Minor’. A sure finalist.” (Leo Hanekroot, De Tijd, September 1962)
“I was lucky that the competition wasn’t as tough as last year.” (A modest Jules Bastin on his magnificent 1962 IVC victory)
T he 1962 IVC victory of Belgian bass Jules Armand Bastin (1933–1996) demonstrates that a given result reflects the singers development at a given point in time, along with the shape of the day. Several singers who were unsuccessful at their first IVC attempt returned victorious a year or two later, as Bastin did in 1962, after his unsuccessful entry the year before. Singers such as Bastin provided the IVC with a dilemma of sorts: since the mid 1950s IVC sought to attract more advanced singers who could bring the competition quick recognition, because they were likely ‘further in their development’. That worked in part, although Ladislaw Mráz turned the tables on the organization with his 1956 victory at the age of 33. Mraz, the star bass of the Czech Opera, was hardly a “talent”, let alone an IVC discovery. Proven singers were also hard to ignore without causing a riot, as when Olga Maddalena didn’t even make it to the 1962 finals after having achieved second prize the year before.
Bastin had been singing in the prestigious Brussels Opera House since 1960 but was unsuccessful in later vocal competitions in Brussels, Verviers, Toulouse and Den Bosch, so no-one was more surprised over his 1962 IVC victory than Bastin himself. A radio interview from immediately after his IVC win had him commenting on his victory, winning the audience over by speaking in Dutch, an impressive accomplishment for a Wallonian, where French was the native language. The gentle and modest bass believed he might have just been lucky in his latest competitive effort up against “less
fierce competition”. That was an odd remark given that he left Richard Novák behind him, a renowned operatic bass in the Czech Republic since 1954.
fATHER O f f OUR
At the age of 29 and already a father of four children, Bastin believed that winning the 1962 IVC was not enough. Since Belgium alone could not provide enough work for him to support his family he believed it necessary to achieve further results in the competitions of Geneva and Munich. Physically a giant, son of a farmer, and discovered while performing in a choir, he ultimately became one of the most famous bassos of the 1960s and 70s, making many recordings in opera and song.
O N HUMAN k INDNE ss…
Participant Olga Maddalena provided the jury with a problem when she was eliminated in the semi-finals after her previous two entries had resulted in an honorary diploma, a second prize and a riot among the audience and critics who had picked her as their favorite. Some critics had proclaimed her a successor to Renata Tebaldi! Sending her off empty handed at her third attempt was painful. A correspondent wrote that if the press was held to maintaining a certain level of “human kindness” (see 1961), the jury should also respect this. Maddalena took a pragmatic view on the outcome, when she said, “I love Holland, love the people of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, I don’t like the Jury, but they aren’t Dutch!”
C OMPETITION f OR THE COMPETITION
Admission fees to the 1962 competition had unwisely been doubled from the year before, while the IVC faced fierce competition from several new competitions all over Europe. Most of these made lesser artistic de mands than the IVC, where singers had to compete in opera, oratorio and song. A disappointing number of only 40 participants for the 9th IVC urged the organization to consider the high costs for foreigners to get to Den Bosch, along with the structure of the competition.
“Czech bass Richard Novák was a serious candidate for first prize. His is a stunning voice. His monologue from Boris Godunov was a great achievement, bringing Boris to life with sculpted phrases.” (Dutch newspaper clipping, September 1962)
“The resemblance between Margaret Duckworth’s impressive voice and Kathleen Ferrier’s was striking, especially in the aria ‘Let other creatures’from Händel’s Jeptha. Vocal splendor and dramatic intensity were abundantly displayed in ‘Liber scriptus’ from Verdi’s Requiem.” (Brabants Dagblad, September 13, 1963)
D AN I ORDACHE s CU “A remarkable appearance was Dan Iordăchescu’s. He has a formidable voice, an excellent technique and a strong artistic personality. His lyric baritone radiated in ‘Di provenza il mar’ from La Traviata. In his rendition of Mussorgsky’s ‘Song of the Flea’ his artistic personality manifested itself to perfection, a rare experience.” (Brabants Dagblad, September 6, 1963)
“Romanian baritone Dan Iordăchescu reaped the loudest applause at the concluding Gala Concert of Winners. His performance confirmed his exceptional gifts, which had so impressed during the competition. After Valentin’s cavatina and Mussorgsky’s ‘Song of the Flea’, the audience didn’t stop cheering until they got an encore, which became an unexpected ‘Non più andrai’ from Le nozze di Figaro. That too was rendered magnificent.” (Brabants Dagblad, September 13, 1963)
The 1963 IVC victory of Romanian baritone Dan Iordăchescu (1930-2015) was hardly a surprise. He had been winning vocal competitions since 1956 and was a star of the National Opera in Bucharest. He remembered arriving by train in De Bosch: “I had two days to rest and there was strong competition from Polish baritone Anthonie Dutkiewicz. I decided the battle between us with Mussorgsky’s ‘Song of the Flea’ my best number. What impressed
me in ‘s-Hertogenbosch was the audience’s enthusiasm. They applauded me frenetically. Of course, my career had long taken wing but the IVC victory opened a new market for me. was suddenly invited to sing in Germany and the Netherlands.” (Interview author with Dan Iordăchescu,Bucharest, June 6, 2014)
During his impressive career of more than 60 years, Iordăchescu undertook 262 international tours in 61 countries, from Eastern Europe to the operatic capitals of Europe and North and South America, Asia and Arab countries. From La Scala to the Vienna State Opera, the Paris Opéra and New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the Bolshoi in Moscow his singing partners included Mario del Monaco, Plácido Domingo, Mirella Freni, Renata Scotto, Montserrat Caballé, Luciano Pavarotti, Franco Corelli and Giuseppe di Stefano.
“I sang for God, the composers, and the public. When I had to sing and act villains, even killers such as Iago, I was very convincing, although it was difficult for me. I managed because believe that God wanted me to show what evil looked like so that people could recognize it timely when facing it.”
E NCORE s!
Although time may not have favored the highly praised 1963 IVC winners equally as the sharply criticized winners from the previous year, the 1963 Gala Concert stood out among all concerts to that date. A frenzied audience induced no less than two encores in an event that previously had never seen even one encore. Iordăchescu concluded with “Non più andrai” and Polish baritone Anthonie Dutkiewicz was prompted to repeat Don Carlo’s “Ella giamai m’amo” to crazied cheers.
“The resemblance between Margaret Duckworth’s impressive voice and Kathleen Ferrier’s was striking, especially in the aria ‘Let other creatures’ from Händel’s Jephtha. Vocal splendor and dramatic intensity were abundantly displayed in ‘Liber scriptus’ from Verdi’s Requiem.” (Brabants Dagblad,
Bozena Kinasz -Mikolajczak
THE BATTLE Of THE TENORs
The 1964 11th IVC was enthusiastically received by the press and audience because no less than nine tenors made it to the semifinals, three of them Dutchees. This lured one journalist into dubbing the competition the “War of the Tenors”. Ironically, the “disappointing contingent of mediocre sopranos”, as another newspaper called it, meant two sopranos ran off with the only two first prizes: Hungarian soprano, Janka Békas, and the best singer of the contest and her Polish rival, Bożena Kinasz-Mikołajczak.
MOVED TO TEARsBy GHIsLAINE
matter, reveling over the wonder of tenor Nicolaas Boer, who did not even pass to the finals, “In Verdi’s ‘Ingemisco’ and Puccini’s ‘Che gelida manina’ Boer first approached the high notes with a lot of falsetto or voix mixte, only to let his voice blossom to full strength on top of that –a most peculiar effect!” Although the jury passed Boer over completely, intrigued readers ultimately were given a chance to sample Boer’s voice in later Dutch performances and radio broadcasts.
fter a decade of annual competitions where the jury was made up of the same group of people, the call for new jurors resulted in three new faces, among them international stars Annelies Kupper and Irma Kolassi. Kolassi was a distinguished juror at the Paris Conservatory Competition and a renowned vocal teacher at Scola Cantorum. Kupper, the star of the Munich Opera House since 1946, also had a stellar reputation as a voice teacher, making her a popular juror in the vocal competitions of Munich and Geneva. Her calling to IVC marked the emerging trend to recruit each other’s hottest jurors. For late starters competitions with Kupper on board were not a good bet, since she divided participants in talent and those who had failed to land a career timely and returned to competitions as a last resort.
C HALLENGING THE j UR y
One correspondent “dared” the jury to let 5 out of 9 semi-final tenors pass to the finals, at the expense of the other vocal categories where “talent was far less present”, which would have been a bold move for the jury given that diversity is better for the audience, competition and the final concert. The jury proved not impressed and did not award a first prize to any of the tenors, favoring instead Hungarian soprano Janka Békas and Polish soprano Bożena Kinasz-Mikołajczak.
T HE w ONDER O f N ICOLAA s B OER
The tenor champions among the press nonetheless pressed the
T OUCHED B y G HI s LAINE C LAUDE D UPONT
Another reporter hailed the fine tradition to disagree with the Jury in vocal competitions of any time and kind, although he could not forgive the of this IVC edition for breaking his heart by not letting Belgian soprano Ghislaine Claude Dupont pass to the finals: “She was the most distinguished and touching musical soul in the semi finals! Her small soprano is of exceptional beauty. She makes music in a silent way, almost unnoticeable, to the point where a composer might have wished he had intended it in this manner. She should at least be given the scholarship award! If only because she and those like her keep this sort of events alive. Sure, the Polish soprano will win, the Belgian understood the music.”
A PER s ONAL NOTE
Being touched to tears by a young voice that brings you familiar music as you never heard before is one of the charms in any given competition. Ever so often aspirant singers can surprise you in ways that even renowned stars can’t achieve. have heard young sopranos sing “Un bel di vedremò” with more panache than Renata Scotto, I’ve heard students toss out the High C’s in “Ah mes amis” as if they were laughing at Juan Diego Florez. have never heard these singers again, but I would have wished that the semi-finals of the IVC 1964 had been recorded so we could hear the charm of Ghislaine Dupont and the mysterious falsetto-crescendo of Nicolaas Boer!
“A prize also for Mary
wildly expressive soprano.”
(H. Hn., De Tijd September
traviata, very expressive, if perhaps slightly forced.”
(L. Sch., Bossche Courant, September 1964)n Bożena Kinasz-Mikołajczak, Patrick Costeloe, Janka Békas, Geoffrey Shovelton, Mary Hayward
“Beauty, cultivated vocal artistry and intelligence marked his singing. Perhaps he was showing off a little too much in ‘Erlkönig,’
what glorious courage to compete with Wolf’s ‘Abschied.’
a sturdy persiflage
and one could only admire Nimsgern’s jolly guts to appear with it in front of an audience that was largely made up of critics.”
(J. A., Bossche Courant, September 13, 1965)
THE GOLDEN yEAR VIORICA CORTEZ, ILEANA COTRUBAs, sIEGMUND NIMsGERN AND wILLy CARON
songs in Italian, French, German, English, Portuguese and Latin. Vinyl Divas dubbed her perhaps “a bit oversold as ‘phenomenal’ on the cover tagline, but definitely very ‘versatile’.”
“Viorica Cortez has a voice rich in nuance, marked by a distinctive temperament and erotic charm. Given that the jury consisted only of men, her ‘election’ was hardly surprising.” (Piet Pijnenborg, De Volkskrant, September 16, 1965.)
“Among four tenors, the last one proved a revelation. In about ten years and if he keeps his head cool this tenor will be a star from La Scala and The Metropolitan Opera House to Munich and Vienna. The name of this Dutchman: Willy Caron!” Leo Hanekroot, De Tijd, September 10, 1965)
While the name Willy Caron may not be very well remembered today, he was regularly promoted in the Netherlands as Herbert von Karajan’s favorite throughout the 1970s (without mentioning that he sang comprimario parts under the illustrious maestro). For two decades, he was also the star soloist of the Maastricht Choir, then the most famous choir in Holland. Hanekroot, usually among the competition’s toughest critics, found much of value in the 1965 competition. Along with Caron, he proclaimed Dutch soprano Joke Kramer “a diamond in the rough.” Eindhovens Dagblad called her voice “crystalline” and predicted for her a great future, “even though she lacked ‘temperament’, a shortcoming that she shared with most Dutch sopranos.” Hanekroot confirmed that the charm of events like the IVC was the possibility that any novice could unexpectedly touch the hearts of critics and audience: “There was an English soprano, apparently from West-Indian origins, that had the guts to sing Wolf’s ‘Geh, Geliebter, geh,’ from Spanishes Liederbuch. That is an incredibly difficult song that I have never heard performed very well. And here was this immature English soprano, technically lacking, who alone proved to have understood the song! A beginner, almost an amateur, incredible!” Such recollections make us wish to hear this mysterious “immature” soprano that understood Wolf better than, say, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, her name: Nell Hall from Barbados, who ultimately recorded one now unfindable LP with arias, ballads, spirituals and
R OMANIA , R OMANIA AND … R OMANIA
“The saying wants all good voices to come from Italy, but in Den Bosch they came from Romania, among them a precious pearl… Ileana Cotrubaş. When listening to her during the concluding IVC Gala Concert, she enchanted us with charming grace and featherlight leggiero singing. It was sheer youthful splendor and beauty that touched the ear. She juggled with her voice and if some labeled that instrument with the adjective ‘metallic’, would only agree if the shimmering beauty of this metal would be linked to noble beauty of the purest silver.” (De Volkskrant, September 16, 1965.)
Polish participant Anton Dutkiwiecz (see 1963) previously explained the political element in East European candidates being sent to West-European competitions to advance the cultural prestige of their countries. By the mid 1960s, Romania discovered ‘s-Hertogenbosch and sent its most promising talents, beginning with 1963’s great prize winner Dan Iordăchescu. In 1965, Viorica Cortez and Ileana Cotrubaş followed in his footsteps with baritone Pompeiu Hărăşteanu coming in second. With these results, the 1965 edition sealed a love affair between Romania and ‘s-Hertogenbosch that continues today.
T HE s TAR sys TEM
The mid 1960s allowed for a more comprehensive understanding of the first decade of the IVC’s organization, criteria, jury, press, and audience response. The IVC’s original idea was to give young singers a platform that also promoted Den Bosch as a city of culture and music. The expectations of the press forced the discovery of “stars”, which became a necessity in sustaining the IVC over time. The heated debates on the final results were and are part of the entertainment value of any given competition, while the actual merits of each competition was, is and will always be only determined years later. It is only in hindsight that we know that Willy Caron did not become the Heldentenor that the world’s opera houses fought over, while great prize winner Viorica Cortez, first prize winner Ileana Cotrubaş and baritone Siegmund Nimsgern would dominate the operatic word for the next 25 years, making 1965 the first “diamond year” in the history of the IVC.
1966“Among Second Prize winners, Dutch baritone Marco Bakker distinguished himself with musical and psychological insight.”
(Mens en Melodie, September 1966)
“Bakker’s selection was tasteful and wellsuited to his lyric baritone. He sang an aria from Le nozze di Figaro with both ease and flair.”
(Brabants Dagblad, October 1966)
A TENOR AT LAsT
Ludovic Spiess and
A tenor who achieves a first prize at any given international competition is a white raven and indeed, such a creature is the 28-year-old Romanian tenor Ludovic Spiess. He reaped his prize on the wings of experience and a powerful voice. One simply couldn’t ignore him. (Mens & Melodie, October 1966.)
An enormous tenor voice that sounded like a bell. (Brabants Dagblad, September 12, 1966.)
The Dutch newspaper, Brabants Dagblad, judged 1966 a meager competition year and its reporter ‘recommended’ the IVC recruit “better vocalists” next year. But still some of 1966’s competitors - Ludovic Spiess (1938–2006), Marina Krilovici (1942), Norma Lerer (1942) and Marco Bakker (1938) - all made their mark on the world stages of opera and operetta.
Spiess was also the first tenor to win a first prize at the IVC. Critics were impressed by his vocal strength, but his lack of subtlety and old-fashioned stage demeanor would remain the weak points for the former Brasov factory worker who developed his voice in the worker’s choir.
Spiess made his stage debut in 1962 as the Duke in Rigoletto and sang at Bucharest’s National Operetta Theatre while attending conservatory. Following his 1966 IVC victory, he debuted at the Salzburg Festival in 1967 under the direction of Herbert von Karajan. The next year, he sang Radamès in Aida at Zürich and then debuted in Vienna and the USA. Spiess’ gift was his ability to convey to the audience the sheer pleasure he took in singing. It was a treat that lasted until the second half of the 1970s, when damage to his vocal chords ended his brief but illustrious career.
M ARINA kRILOVICI
Romanian soprano Marina Krilovici produced gripping and yet refined emotions. Her Great Prize was wholly justified. (Mens & Melodie, October 1966.)
Beyond doubt in a class in herself among the sopranos in this edition. She was easily the most experienced and strongest contester among the four sopranos in the finals. Krilovici was remarkable in her arias from Tannhäuser and La forza del destino. (Brabants Dagblad, September 12, 1966.)
The outstanding vocal school of the Ciprian Porombescu Conservatory Bucharest under the direction of Arta Florescu produced nearly all of the important Romanian female voices— Viorica Cortez, Marina Krilovici, Eugenia Moldoveanu, Maria Slătinaru, Leontina Văduva and Angela Gheorghiu. Krilovici (1942) was another example of the Romanian vocal tradition that had previously given the world such singers as Elena Theodorini, Hariclea Darclée (for who Catalani composed La Wally, Mascagni Iris and Puccini Tosca) and Metropolitan Opera diva Stella Roman. Krilovici perfected her voice in Italy and achieved a career that took her to Hamburg, Vienna, Chicago, New York, London, Rome, Berlin, Paris, Lisbon, Venice, Munich and Montreal.
C OMMUNI s T s, CHAMPION s O f THE ART s
Both Krilovici and Spiess were singers that proved the successful cultural policy of communist governments: first the Romanians until 1979, then the Hungarians and finally, the Russians would dominate the charts in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
1967“Confronted with the notion that journalists almost habitually disagreed with juries that over time proved to have better fortunetelling abilities, 1967 juror Cora Canne Meijer smiled slightly:
“Who do you think will have the better ear: me, or a journalist who never sang himself?” What then about disagreements within the jury? Canne Meijer: “There will always be borderline cases. About those we could have some lively discussions.” (IVC 1967 juror Cora Canne Meijer in conversation with the author, March 2014)
Among sopranos, the Dutch newspaper, Brabrants Dagblad, favored Peruvian “show-lady” Olga Gálvez while Claudette LeBlancRoss stole the hearts of the audience with a glorious rendition of Mozart’s “An Cloë”, followed by a brilliant execution of an aria from Menotti’s The medium. Bulgarian Stefanka Popangelova played her power-soprano card but landed only second prize in that category apparently due to her “horrible” accompanist. Although the IVC provided accompanists, most of the Eastern-European delegation appeared with their own pianists.
T he Dutch newspaper, De Tijd, explained why the EasternEuropean delegation preferred their “horrible” accompanists over the outstanding IVC pianists Gérard van Blerk and Georges van Renesse - those governments wanted to have another sort of ‘accompaniment’ for their singers: many of the rudimentary pianists were government agents tasked with preventing the talents of their communist countries from defecting to the West. But fortunately for Popangelova, she was still able to make the most of Weber’s Freischütz aria.
A ‘D IVA s’ CAT f IGHT
Debates on the merits of the sopranos in the finals were heated. Some loathed Bulgarian Melani Rosner, while others thought her elimination was “ongoing proof of the incompetence of the Jury”: “Why did the Jury eliminate Rosner? They didn’t say, but I can tell: Rosner has a large voice with real quality and she sings without effort. She had so much natural talent that she incidentally could be a bit careless. I presume they also did not like the sheer rejoice she demonstrated in singing Mahler, and so they gave preference to semi bel canto singer Popangelova. She was a complete artist, but she had to work hard for it. She gave us a textbook lesson but without Rossner’s God given joy in singing.”
The soprano surprises that year came from England - Sally Le Sage, whose beautiful timbre impressed more than one critic, as did Helen Lawrence, who according to some had the most beautiful voice of the day and was also the most versatile artist covering Bach, Verdi and Debussy.
wHO ’s y OUR TENOR
Although the critics didn’t have much faith in the tenor section, Jack Irons (1936-2005) later had a notable UK career in oratorio and recital. A rare example of his voice can be heard on our website’s inclusion of 'Questa o quella'. Another tenor judged insufficient was Patrick Costeloe, who returned for a second attempt after having achieved second prize at the 1964 IVC going on to a successful UK career.
fRE s H BLOOD PLEA s E ...
One of the competition’s fiercest critics, Leo Hanekroot, had seen his call for fresh blood in the jury answered since 1966, but the results were still not to his liking. He came up with a novel theory in which all juries by nature “lacked common sense.” In reality, not just the jurors needed rejuvenation. For critical opinion on the IVC to change also younger journalists needed to step in. That process started in the second half of the 1960s. By then Holland was host to several vocal competitions, including the first televised operatic talent show, who were all hoping to take a cut of the IVC’s national success. These later competitions were far more commercial and by the end of the 1960s an air of nostalgia for “the good old days” emerged among press and audience. This ultimately placed the competition in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in a different, more positive light. Long considered “naïve”, the IVC’s purity emerged from the 1960s as its most prized feature in the 1970s.
A ND THE w INNER w A s… A ( REAL ) B LAC k BA ss!
In the lower echelons of tessitura, a Black American bass reigned undisputed, Louis Hagen-Williams. His large, powerful voice impressed everyone and he was clearly the favorite for first prize in his category. That not a word of his Duparc song could be understood or that his coloratura in the Judas Maccabeus aria was rudimentary was easily washed over by the overwhelming quality of his voice. “Wild and exiting, fit for the Arena of Verona” were the words Hagen was welcomed with in the press. His victory marked the beginning of a strong influx of African-American singers in the decade to come, when Black opera singers were, unfortunately, not yet regularly showcased.
sECRET AGENTs IN ‘s-HERTOGENBOsCH fIRsT BLACk fIRsT PRIZE wINNER
“Oriel Sutherland could easily claim to have the widest-ranging alto voice in the world. Her compass showed enormous depths, yet she was also able to rise to remarkable heights. She had already been the best vocalist on Friday morning, with a glorious rendition of ‘Schlagende Herzen’
(Johan van Dongen, Eindhovens Dagblad, September 1968)
“No one had guessed that the Hungarian soprano would win the first prize. Perhaps a second prize, and even there I have my doubts.” (Dutch newspaper, September 1968.)
“Csilla Zentai won first prize with a technically perfect ‘Ach, ich fühl’s’ that lacked emotion, whereas Angela Beale showed great dramatic powers, impressive maturity and a vocal culture that enraptured all –all, but the Jury.” (De Volkskrant, September 1968.)
Although Hungarian soprano Csilla Zentai’s first prize in Den Bosch was vehemently challenged, the future Kammersängerin Zentai had the most successful career of all the 1968 participants. In 1976, Zentai joined the Deutsche Oper am Rhein and made guest appearances at the Salzburg Festival, the Berlin Opera and the Bolshoï Theatre in Moscow.
On the IVC archives website Zentai’s 1968 IVC Gala Concert performance of the Zauberflöte aria can be compared with the performances of Beale, Great Prize winner Hans Georg Dahmen and Oriel Sutherland.
kA j A B ORRI s
Only one critic noted that the Dutch Radio Engagement Prize winner, Katja Borris (aka Katja de Boer), was the soprano to watch and right he was. Borris’ joined the Deutsche Opera in Berlin in 1973 and remained for 30 years. Some observers marked her Erda in a 1988 performance of Siegfried as “sensational” and her Cieca in La Gioconda (with Franco Bonisolli and IVC winner Marina Slatinaru) thrilled the critics with Opera Notes reporting:
“She must have studied blind people very closely, in order to portray Gioconda’s blind mother, La Cieca, so wholly convincing. Her performance and her clear, differentiated, sensitive and well-phrased singing stole the limelight away from the other two divas.”
G REAT P RIZE wINNER
“This German has one of the richest baritone sounds have ever heard. A true singer with great artistic refinement. In the lyrical field he achieved results that link him to Fischer-Dieskau or Hermann Prey. His singing of Wolf’s “Verschwiegene Liebe,’ and Wolfram’s ‘O du mein holder Abenstern’ from Tannhaüser radiated like the shimmering of stars.” (De Tijd, September, 1968.)
Audience and press agreed with the jury on baritone Hans-Georg Dahmen’s great prize. Only one critic thought Dahmen was wrongly billed as a baritone and should have competed as a tenor. Regardless, Dahmen was clearly the most enchanting singer of the competition making him one of those rare artists who won the IVC with the performance of a lifetime, but which for unknown reasons, he was never able to repeat. Through good fortune, Dahmen’s performance of the Tannhaüser aria at the finals was preserved in a Dutch Radio broadcast that is currently available on 401IVCA.com.
T HE j UR y j UDGED
That the 1968 jury took an unprecedented two hours to come to a final verdict was considered an outrage given that the entire audience was waiting in the auditorium. Leo Hanekroot, for once defended the jury since it was incredibly difficult to compare crossgenre with Zentai singing opera, Angela Beale and Wendy Eathorne oratorio and Ria Bollen and Oriel Sutherland songs. The controversy revealed a sensitivity that continues in today’s competitions: why compete in song if the jury favored opera and achieving a career in song wasn’t likely unless you could also sing opera?
wITH A LITTLE HELP …
Among the new additions to the jury Oda Slobodskaja and Isobel Baillie were though to come from a too distant past. Slobodskaja actually arrived with a mechanical hearing aid! Some critics questioned if the two women were physically up to the challenge of a week filled with taxing auditions.
only thing that could prevent John Bröcheler
the prize of the Dutch
performance of a song
be if some
rendition of a Catharina
drop from the
Geraldine Hackett -JonesMaria Slatinaru
case, we wouldn’t even
For those readers who are not used to Dutch-style criticism, reviews such as the ones in these pages are probably bewildering. It was simply impossible to do good. But 1969 was exceptional with castigatory titled articles like “Massive Admittance at Vocal Competition” and “Overloaded semi-final” protesting against the 39 vocalists who were allowed to pass to the semi-finals. These set the tone for a breathtaking clash with the jury over the also “overloaded” finals where 20 young singers competed.
But despite these loud criticisms, with the economy booming and a huge global demand for Western music, opera, concert performances and conservatories surged and the IVC and other vocal contests thrived and became the essential hatching grounds for new talent of the 1970s and 80s.
A BRILLIANT s OLUTION
Apart from great prize winner Maria Slătinaru, while some remarks about “Negro” baritone Walker Wyatt and “Negro” soprano Klesie Kelly in National newspapers. At the time, barely eight years after Leontyne Price caused a global frenzy over her Metropolitan Opera debut, opera changed rapidly. Price and soon also Grace Bumbry guaranteed sold out houses and there seemed to be an unfillable appetite for colored singers. Two years after Louis Hagen-Williams had been the first black winner at the IVC, more non-white singers followed, not just black Americans, but soon also from Asia. They were much loved by the audience for the exotic element and new dynamic they brought to the competition.
M ARIA sLATINARU
“Maria Slătinaru has a radiant voice […] she already knows exactly how to get the audience to her feet.” (De Volkskrant, September 1969)
Folowing her IVC triumph, Romanian National Opera star Maria Slătinaru (1938) became a regular guest at opera houses across Europe, as well as New York, San Francisco and Melbourne. The
IVC archives website features an exclusive interview with Slătinaru, filmed in June 2006, where she recalls the perils of being an opera diva under Ceauşescu.
G ERALDINE H AC k ETT - jONE s, THE VOICE O f THE C ENTUR y “Perhaps the jury thought it wise to let the best singer of the contest go home without any prize at all – wise, because with all the solid gold that she has in her throat, Geraldine Hackett-Jones doesn’t need the IVC jury to conquer the world.” (De Volkskrant, September 1969)
Geraldine Hackett-Jones was dubbed “the golden voice of the century” at the 1967 Sun Aria Contest in Victoria, Australia. where she garnered stunning accolades in an article titled “A Singer with Everything in Her Favor.” In Den Bosch she won over the audience effortlessly, but the jury proved divided: one half liked her, while the other half did not even want to allow her into the finals. When HackettJones left empty-handed, the press criticized the verdict in screaming headlines: “Audience Whistles Jury away at Vocal Competition”, “Best Did Not Get Any Prizes”, “IVC Jury Brought a Bitter Surprise”, “Top Level of Australian Not Acknowledged” and “Revolt of the Audience against Jury Verdict”. Disputes like these make one hungry to hear her voice. Fortunately, her VARA engagement ‘prize’ (given by the broadcaster) resulted in an appearance in Beethoven’s Mass in C early in 1970. She returned in June of that year for a 30-minute Dutch radio concert of songs by Schubert and Webern, which does not solve the mystery of why the “the voice of the century” was never heard from again.
D EMAND s
Although time proved the final IVC competition of the 1960s to be successful in picking voices with a future, the frenzy over Hacket-Jones made it clear that the audience and press were as much a defining factor in the IVC as the jury and the organization: Why were there no audience and press prizes in ‘s-Hertogenbosch? With the audience and the press established as unyielding players, the game was on: it was also their competition!
“The French Christiane Issartel made a profound impression by her sense of style and her refined way of phrasing, with attention for detail. The way in which she performed ‘Chérie, c’est toi’ was of such dramatic power that she moved the audience.” (Piet Pijnenborg, De Volkskrant, September 7, 1970)
Sona GhazarianShuichi Takahashi
By 1970, the press finally acknowledged the IVC for what it was: a competition with many talented singers of comparatively tender age in need of refinement. The Lebanese-Armenian first prize winner, Sona Ghazarian, proved ready for the world’s stages. Christiane Issartel excelled in song. The star of the show was the Japanese bass Shuiski Takahashi, who overwhelmed jurors, audience and critics alike.
What may have helped in achieving better press in 1970 was the publication of the jury’s motives for their selection of the winners in each category. Even Leo Hanekroot agreed on the winners, although he could not explain why Austrian soprano Regina Winkelmayer had not been given a first prize: “There were moments in Bach’s ‘Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben’ that it seemed as if a mixed-register in an organ was playing. Her ‘Caro nome’ was a revelation.”
Hanekroot used Winkelmayer to protest against the practice of limiting public motivations of the jury’s choices to finalists. He now demanded to know why any given singer did not pass to the finals. This marks the balancing act between the sensationalism of voice competitions on television today where the showmanship of the jurors and the drama of public exposure are the selling points and a competition such as the IVC, which always prioritized the interest of the participants. For as long as audience and press remained outsiders, balancing public curiosity with singers’ interests remained a juggling act. Of course singers did and do receive explanations of why they did not pass any given round, but they prefer to receive these motivations in private.
In a comical essay titled “Here and There” one critic honored “the exemplary English Lieder bass Louis-Edward Smart” on his
imaginative choice of repertoire. Smart (which in Dutch means “Grieve”) honored his last name by first singing “O misère,” then “Ach weh mir, unglückhaftem Mann” and finally “O Tod”.
A LADIE s MAN BATTLING s CORE s
Accompanists Gérard van Blerk and George van Renesse both performed at the IVC for 17 straight years, with George traditionally aiding sopranos, while Gérard favoring the lower voices. When, during the 1970 semi-finals, a strong draft forced Van Renesse to keep the pages of the score of “Rejoice greatly” in place with one hand, he played the music with his other hand and depending on which page needed to be secured as the wind blew, he played either right or left hand. He then notified the jury that “special circumstances” were to be considered in their evaluation.
sHUICHI TA k AHA s HI
“Takahashi’s appearance made such a profound impression that one wondered why on earth he was still bothering with competitions? Very seldom does one get to experience a singer who is so complete and perfect. With his intelligence and control he sang Philip’s ‘Ella giammai m’amo’ from Don Carlo motionless, while shaping the entire drama in his musicality. He is more than just a noble singer – his is a noble soul.” (Brabants Dagblad, September 7, 1970)
Brabants Dagblad depicted Takahashi as an unusually tall Japanese bass who appeared in Japanese national costume including an oversized Japanese sword and “a teeny-tiny doll-wife” as accompanist, “Our samurai had it all – he sang to kill.” Hailed as one of the IVC’s greatest discoveries ever, Takahashi subsequently vanished with only the recording of the concluding IVC Gala Concert to testify of the samurai bass that everyone agreed had it all. Nonetheless, he was the first in a string of highly successful Japanese candidates.
1971“Yuko Tsuji […] should have been selected as Best Singer.[…] Forget about jury points – there is no jury better than the ultimate consumers: the audience! Tsuji enraptured us with ‘Gretchen am Spinnrade,’ a song which can only have two outcomes: complete failure or triumph. The latter is what Tsuji achieved!” (Leo Hanekroot, Brabants Dagblad, September 1971)
A DUTCH wINNER AT LAs A PERfECT jURy…
Thomas ThomaschkeRobert Holl
One of the striking particularities of the 1971 IVC was the lavish number of first prize winners against a single second prize winner. That a number of smaller prizes were also not awarded was odd, given that there were 18 finalists. Home audiences welcomed the first Dutch singer among first prize winners in over a decade, one that would carve out a career that did justice to his win: Robert Holl. Holl conquered the world of oratorio, song and opera in an international career that continued well into 2014.
A gainst a plenitude of first prize winners including soprano Horiana Brănișteanu, mezzo Yuko Tsuji and bass/baritones Robert Holl and Thomas Thomaschke, the great prize of the city was not being awarded. This was the result of a call for more “objectivity” in awarding prizes. This resulted in a complex measuring of points defining if one was worthy of that great prize. Admittedly the organization, pushed by press and audience, took matters too seriously: the festival was there to help young singers, not to accommodate the mere curiosity of press and audience at the cost of those singers.
A D UTCH wINNER AT LA s T .
Given that the last Dutch IVC first prize winner was Elly Ameling in 1956, Robert Holl was the first Dutch winner in 15 years, a statistical feat that did not elude the press. Creating Dutch winners was never a goal of the IVC after it transferred from a Benelux competition into an international one ar. For Robert Holl to win the first prize in the bass/baritone category, he simply had to be the best.
yU k O Ts U j I O ff ICIOU s w INNER O f THE G REAT A UDIENCE P RIZE
Even Hanekroot admitted that the “objective” new system left critics
such as himself without bullets, although anyone present at the finals knew that Yuko Tsuji was in fact the “best singer” of the competition: “You can’t prove a notion such the ‘best singer’, but we brought Tsuji standing ovations, no, we brought her a hurricane of applause! That has always been how “best singers” get elected. Who cares about points when a singer captivates the hearts of the audience! We, the simple folks in the audience – including the jury – know that better than anyone.”
T HOMA s T HOMA s CH k E
With journalists raving over both the Dutch winner and the unrecognized talents of Bulgarian bass Stefan Dimitrow, “the formidable” Romanian bass Mircea Mosia, West-German baritone Rainer Buese, Turkish soprano Isin Güyer, and the English sopranos Ann Price and Angela Vernon-Bates, one could almost forget that German bass Thomas Thomaschke. He shared his first prize with Holl and achieved an international career of highest ranking, including numerous prestigious recordings for Eterna, HMV, Philips and Decca. Likewise, Horiana Brănișteanu achieved a glorious operatic career that can still be traced today.
M ANU s wILLEM s EN C OMPETITION NO MORE
After having presided over the Jury since 1954, people started nicknaming the IVC the MWC, the Manus Willemsen Competition. The early 1970s were used to rejuvenate the jury and the rotation system was also being applied to the president. With conductor Johannes den Hertog presiding, the 1970 jury looked very up to date with Romanian soprano/teacher Arta Florescu, soprano Erna Spoorenberg, mezzo Nan Merriman, tenor Anton Dermota and bass Fritz Ollendorf.n Thomas Thomaschke, Horiana Branisteanu, Wynford Evans, Yoko Tsuji and Robert Holl
THE yEAR Of
“A beautiful, sonorous voice, extremely musical, great artistic intelligence.” (1972 IVC jury)
“When the audience fiercely protested the disappointing Second Prize of their favorite, Jacques Bona, the organizing board generously tripled Bona’s Second Prize.” (De Telegraaf, September 12, 1972)
“The Gala Concert took place without Bona, who had already left the city.”
(Brabants Dagblad, September 14, 1972)
sINGING ALONG wITH ROBERT CURRIER CHRIsTENsEN
Both the jury and press agreed that the average level of the 1972 candidates was “not particularly high”, while some considered the average age of the semi-finalists (30+) “exceptionally high”. President of the jury, Johannes den Hertog, wondered what these singers had been up to previously.
F irst prize winner and American baritone Robert Currier Christesen made an impression in the most unusual way when his accompanist screamed along to cheer him on: “And guess what… the audience went wild! Apparently, the magical thing was that it all happened without even raising his right arm in crescendo…”
T HE VENGEANCE O f A GOLDEN TENOR
When English tenor Jeffrey Talbot complained to the audience outside that no tenor had been given a prize, he said that he would prove the jury wrong in life. We celebrate Talbot’s career on our archives website with a sample of his fascinating EMI LP recording “The Golden Tenor”, a title that proved he was still the self-confident singer that graced 1972’s IVC.
G ALVANIZED TENOR
Although press and jury ruled that the tenor section at the 19th annual IVC was “particularly poor”, a Cuban tenor Moises Parker nonetheless made it to the finals with a radiant “Che gelida manina”. One of the public’s favorites in this edition of the IVC, Parker’s career later culminated in his legendary 2004 performance as Florestan in Fidelio on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela had been kept a prisoner of the Apartheit regime for decades. A 1997 set of 13 tenor arias ranging from Cavalleria rusticana to Turandot show his burnished, galvanized timbre still intact after 30 years of singing.
T HE L AUREL & H ARD y O f CLA ss ICAL MU s IC
his best to keep up his reputation, tossing out such headers as “Slapstick jury leaves audience bewildered”, and “Jury fell for show of vocalizers”. When Romanian soprano Gerda Spireanu was hailed as first prize winner with her beautiful voice and her great technical skills, Hanekroot commented:
“Her voice was indeed the best trained voice ever heard cracking out high notes. If even the jury mentioned that she still lacked ‘artistry,’ then why on Earth give her a first prize? Oh, did forget great prize winner Patricia Payne, a drama queen in the wrong sense of the word. A first prize would have been a bonus, but the great prize for Payne was sheer madness. […] Adelheid Krauss’s second prize among altos was a joke… as was the jury, predictably so, because they made a joke of themselves in most competitions that were held so far.”
Ten years earlier the comments above would have shocked IVC officials, but from the second half of the 1960s onwards Hanekroot (and Riemens) were no longer taken serious. By 1972 they were seen as the Laurel & Hardy among critics.
T HE AUDIENCE
One journalist focused on the audience during the semi-finals, which resulted in the first published account that focused exclusively on the audience, documenting its various viewpoints:
“The devoted regulars never miss a competition and keep the program booklets in their ‘private archives’. If the jury rules differently than what the regulars deem to be correct, that fuels heated discussions about the results. The press comments on achievements with the aura of scientific knowledge. The host families primarily focus on the achievements of their guest(s) and share their nerves from start to finish. Officials of embassies judge the achievements of their landsmen from a patriotic perspective.”
“US tenor James Wagner was in a class by himself in terms of technique, lyrical feeling, musicality and intelligence. If he keeps this up in the finals, he will be one of the favorites of this competition. His specialty is opera, but his interpretation of ‘Phidyle’ will not easily be forgotten.”
Zomerdijk, Brabants Dagblad, September 1973)
“Adrienne Csengery bested herself during the finals with intensely musical, well-managed interpretations of compositions by Mozart, Menotti and Schubert. Her voice is not the largest, but her timbre is round and warm.” (NRC, September 10, 1973.)
“After she excelled in arias by Händel, Mozart, La Traviata, Menotti’s The Telephone, a Lied by Schubert and a murderous scene from Berg’s Lulu in Den Bosch, I saw Csengery again in the television program ‘Nights in Budapest.’ She sang an aria and a duet from Léhar’s Zigeunerliebe and proved equally outstanding in operetta, dancing and frolicking onstage with a charm and bravura that dwarfed most of what we are accustomed to in this genre.” (De Telegraaf, September 1973.)
“The young Polish mezzo Stefania Toczyska brilliantly worked her way through the difficult aria from Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex. […] She had more right to her Second Prize than her rival [Vibeke Bjelke], who impressed with sheer beauty of voice, even if her English diction in The Telephone was more charmingly naïve than idiomatic.” Brabants Dagblad, September 8/10, 1973)
“Do you want the International Vocal Competition to continue?? Many of our subventions have been diminished or eliminated because of numerous budget cuts. If you want us to continue, then support us with either $ 12, $ 25, or $ 50.” (The IVC organization in a leaflet to the audience)
The International Vocal Competition ‘s-Hertogenbosch had started in a time of great optimism and the enormous economic growth that followed World War II. At the end of the 1960’s the World looked wholly different from the decade before. Pop music, flower power and the man on the Moon made everyone forget that the new dreams were built on oil. When the Arabian countries started their 1973 oil boycott against countries that had supported Israel in the Jom Kippur War, the impact on the economies of the United States and The Netherlands was vast. The first sector to feel the effects through budget cuts was the cultural sector. While the IVC had been a marvelous promotional event for City, Province and Country, there was a significant price to be paid for advancing the careers of young singers through high profile Juries. The 1973 Jury included such illustrious names as legendary baritone Gino Bechi, sopranos Gré Brouwenstijn and Arta Florescu and Bernard Kruysen, one of the first IVC candidates to become a juror.
A NE w AGE LIMIT
Following concerns about the 30+ average age of finalists in recent years, the maximum age of admittance was lowered to 31 years. The need to secure high profile winners that could advance the name of the IVC was no longer an issue and the operatic world had changed. Singers now systematically tried their luck at a plenitude of competitions in Europe and the USA for three to five years in a row. If they won a first prize here, there was another prize to win elsewhere. From the 1960’s onwards the names of IVC winners are therefore increasingly also the names of the winners in other important competitions. All these competitions brought them new contacts with international agents, conductors and theatre managements. For “discovering voices” lowering the age limit was the better option.
A ND THE w INNER s w ERE
The only first prize given at the 1973 IVC was for Hungarian soprano Adrienne Csengery, who achieved an important international career. Second and secondary prize winners Miriam Bowen, Cornelia Pop, Stefania Toczyska, Antonius Nicolescu, James Wagner and Jozef Baert achieved impressive careers in their respective countries.
T HE IVC IN THE M U s ICAL wORLD O f 1973
The budget cuts and the 20th anniversary of the competition invited reflection on the IVC’s past, present and future. The IVC had international standing but within the Netherlands it had remained a provincial event. The management was never professionalized. Up to 1973 it was a split effort between the board and the City Council that freed some clerks who were already on their payroll. That worked fine in a structure where the costs were entirely absorbed by city, province and local sponsors. With city and province placing itself at greater financial distance the competition needed to professionalize from within.
O N BALANCE
Regardless of popular discussions on incidental results, the status of the IVC in the 1970s rested on local Dutch IVC jurors being frequently invited to other prestigious international juries. To date, even world famous IVC winners never fail to mention their IVC victory in their resumes. The challenge in 1973 was not to pick better winners, but to professionalize the organization and use the IVC’s international reputation to secure the competition’s future.
Vainer was at least screened twice before she was allowed to travel from Leningrad [St. Petersburg] to Den Bosch, but fully merited her first prize in the mezzo-soprano
She impressed with songs by Mussorgsky and Bach and even more with a song by the little known Russian composer Schedrin.” (Eindhovens Dagblad, September 1974)
La Verne WilliamsLászló Polgár
“With his pleasant and mellifluous voice, Hungarian bass László Polgár is certain of a place in the finals.” (Eindhovens Dagblad, September 7, 1974)
Nadezhda Vainer couldn’t hold her tears when she heard that she was also awarded the Great Prize of the City of Den Bosch. Although she lived up to the prize at the concluding Gala Concert, La Verne Williams proved on a par with Vainer there. Vainer remained active in Russia, but few details of her of her appearances there have come to light. Her 1974 IVC Concert appearance currently provides the only sample of her voice. From today’s perspective the mayor discoveries of the 1974 IVC were first prize winning soprano La Verne Williams and the unlikely winner of the Dutch music prize: László Polgár!
Hungarian bass László Polgár won the Dutch Music Award by cunningly expanding his competition repertoire with three songs by Dutch composer Daniel Ruyneman. A brilliant move, since competition for that prize was limited and 70% of the Dutch song repertoire was composed to German, French or English poetry. Nonetheless the prize was frequently not awarded for lack of candidates (although this edition had three more laureates crowned). Intelligence proved one of the hallmarks in Polgár’s later career, which propelled him to international stardom on the basis of a warm, mellifluous bass voice founded on a superb technique. Many famous Hungaroton LPs and countless radio recordings still testify of his qualities.
L A V ERNE wILLIAM s
“The star of the evening and a real prima donna was the American La Verne Williams. Her arias from operas by Puccini, Verdi and Gershwin were a delight, utterly touching. She revealed an exceptional talent and will doubtlessly find her way to the main stages of the world.” (NRC, September 12, 1974)
La Verne Williams was the audience’s favorite in Den Bosch and many thought her worthy of the Great Prize of the City. She
the audience with a sublime performance of a Gershwin aria, while being equally marvelous in Verdi and Fauré. Williams had a short but stellar career that took her to Covent Garden, Glyndebourne, the London Coliseum, the Lyon Opera House and the Metropolitan Opera, specializing in late German romantic repertoire and appearing as an utterly charming Fatima in a 1987 filmed version of Weber’s Oberon from the Edinburgh Festival.
k GB AGENT A RTHUR E s EN !
World famous soprano Galina Vishnevskaya was to be part of the 1974 jury, but at the very last minute the Russians replaced her with bass Arthur Eisen. The IVC was disappointed. Once arrived, Eisen also proved to have a political agenda, pushing Russian candidates. After the finals the Jury needed 2,5 hours to reach a verdict because Eisen refused to accept the American soprano La Verne Williams above Russian soprano Ruzanna Lisitzian. As a compromise Russian mezzo Nadezda Vainer would win first prize without a second prize being awarded in that category. A local newspaper saw the humor of the situation and wrote that the Russian Jury member, so proudly presented at the beginning of the competition, had ultimately “threatened to get Russian tanks to Den Bosch if his candidates didn’t win.” Just when Eisen seemed to agree he suddenly demanded that Vainer would also win the Great Prize of the City of Den Bosch! With the intrigue out in the open the organization feared the worst, but to their utter surprise Vainer was loudly applauded by the audience.
A VOCAL ADVENTURE
For the organization Russian jurors were a once but never again experience. The press on the other hand proved excited over meeting the first real Russian Jury member (Slobodskaya travelled on a British passport in 1968), along with the first Russian candidates in all 21 years of IVC history. All the misadventures that previously would have resulted in negative press were now suddenly depicted as colorful and adventurous!n
singer Andrew Dalton was the first countertenor ever at the International Vocal Competition and therefore also the first prizewinner in this hastily improvised new vocal category. Hein Zomerdijk believed he demonstrated enough vocal talent to be worthy of his Second Prize.” (R.S., 401ivca.com,
The 22nd International Vocal Competition ‘s-Hertogenbosch welcomed an increasing number of impresarios keen on discovering fresh talent. The IVC had distributed thousands of posters and brochures in conservatories of 45 countries. Side events ran from educationals up to a Regensburger Domspatzen concert in the Casino Den Bosch. Public attendance was huge. While some had their sitting flesh put to the test, others had a great time during the finals, such as critic Hein Zomerdijk, who thought that there was exceptionally much to enjoy among the 23 finalists, each of them taking up to fifteen minutes for their three arias and/or songs!
T HE P UCCINI BAN
A new rule that made ‘contemporary’ music obligatory resulted in a discussion on what “contemporary music” actually was?
To prevent Puccini & co from being ranked among 20th Century composers, the organization had given a list of 50 composers to choose from, including Benjamin Britten, Claude Debussy, Carl Orff, Maurice Ravel, Olivier Messiaen, Arthur Honegger, Ralph VaughanWilliams, Hendrik Andriessen and Henk Badings.
A NNETT A NDRIE s EN IVC ICON
Encouragement prize winner Annett Andriesen (1950, Den Haag) had a fine operatic career in the Netherlands, Europe and the USA, including Teatre Liceu in Barcelona and the San Francisco Opera. By the time her career culminated in a La Scala debut in 2013 she had long proven her calling in management and promoting young singers. In 2007 she became the artistic and commercial director of the IVC, transforming the competition into a future-proof event until her leave in 2019. To date Andriesen is still on the board of advisors.
A LL BUT ONE
Although De Volkskrant thought the finals overloaded, all critics including Leo Riemens agreed that the 1975 edition had been a great event. Riemens, the IVC’s most feared antagonist since 1954 actually produced his first positive IVC review in 17 years, praising many candidates including Spanish tenor Mario Rodrigo who showed off a radiant High C in “Salut demeure” from Gounod’s Faust and sang the difficult coloratura passage in in “Il mio Tesoro” in one breath!
seemed to have learned a thing or two from the
new generation of critics. Instead of reports on coloraturas who made “complete fools” of themselves he now spoke of, “An English coloratura soprano was a sure candidate for a prize even though Zerbinetta was still a challenge for her.” Contrary to his former practice he didn’t even mention the girls name [Dinah Harris] for fear to hurt her feelings! Was the venomous critic of ere no longer to be feared then? Not for the singers. The provisory Jeroen Bosch Hall used while the Casino Hall was being renovated, proved a perfect target for a classic Riemens’ lash: “The Hall of Province is the most impossible concert hall in the Netherlands with seats that are a painful torture. One might as well perform in open air.”
I N THE f OOT s TEP s O f A RTUR E I s EN
Following Artur Eisen’s pushing of Russian candidates in the previous year, critics suddenly felt that it was a shame to see only three Dutch participants in the final stages of the competition. The limited number of three Dutch First Prize winners since 1954 did not reflect the great careers that a number of former Dutch IVC participants had meanwhile achieved. The reasons were simple: due to the aggressive way of reviewing in the 1960s many Dutch talents avoided the home competition for fear that it might do them more harm than good. Others used the IVC as an inexpensive try out opportunity and arrived there too early in their development.
T HE j UR y COMPLAIN s!
To the chagrin of the Jury foreign competitors put more effort in competing for the Dutch Musical Interest Prize than Dutch candidates (although this seems logical given that only three Dutch candidates made it to the semi finals).
N O k GB, s TILL A R U ss IAN w INNER
Was the 1975 IVC really as good as the press believed, with Russian bass Vladimir Pankratov hailed as “one of the greatest winners in the IVC’s history”? In retrospect it was an average year with the internationally renowned Patricia Price being the best remembered candidate to date, along with Mexican cult soprano Rosario Andrade. That Pankratov fell short of his Great Prize may be due to the political reality that Russian singers had to deal with in those days.
I MPROMPTU PRIZE
When the first countertenor in ‘s-Hertogenbosch entered the IVC and was judged worthy of a prize, a new prize had to be invented. Since there were no famous Dutch countertenors of ere to name the prize after, it was simply labelled “countertenor prize.”n
“The IVC banners fluttered in the wind above the green grass north of the St. Jan’s Basilique, while the Royal Brass Band tossed out some popular tunes. Since it was kermes, there was plenty of musical entertainment to be enjoyed on this morning varying from barrel organs to bandoleons.
The uniformed brass band almost seemed to be hired for the opening of the IVC.” (Brabants Dagblad, August 8, 1976).
“That the IVC draws such large numbers of participants is due to the fantastic organization, the human touch and the down to earth character of those organizing it. There’s a fantastic atmosphere. […] Today, the IVC is surely the leading vocal competition in Europe, along with the one in Munich.” (Manus Willemsen, President of the 1976 Jury).
In an official report the IVC’s board of directors looked at past, present and future in terms of sharply rising costs versus artistic and promotional benefits for the community. The president of the jury wisely communicated the glory of the competition to the press and the audience. The 1976 IVC picked up on the rising popularity of the baroque genre in a doubling of participating countertenors. These went from the first and only one in 1975 to two in the new edition, among them the pioneering Drew Minter!
While countertenors started making their mark on competitions all over Europe there was a clear decline in candidates East-European countries. Since Halina Łukomska in the 1950s Eastern Europe had delivered many first and second prize winners, first from Poland and Czechoslovakia, then Romanians and recently also Russians and Bulgarians. Intriguingly the decline in Romanian participants coincided with an influx of Russian candidates. Regardless, the 1976 IVC once again had the regular Romanian diva in second prize winner Mihaela Agachi.
T HE f INAL s
“The finals in the ‘Heil’ge Hallen’ of the House of Province were interrupted by a noisy radio crew after Mendelssohn’s ‘Gott sei mir gnädig’ from Paulus, a fitting text for a bass with aspirations. Only after the noise stopped, the spirits of Mount Olympus could continue to judge and enjoy the delights of art. Well, Mount Olympus… one should rather speak of Mount Fujiyama, since the greatest triumph was reserved for the smallest contester, teeny-tiny Japanese soprano Mitsuko Shirai.’ (Brabants Dagblad, September 6, 1976)
The finals proved unusually diverse with a large number of finalists having Lieder as preference rather than the usual opera or oratorio arias. Mitsuko Shirai’s victory was undisputed, although some thought sopranos Dinah Harris (stronger than the year before) and Brigitte Eisenfeld not far behind the Japanese. Eisenfeld excelled in the coloratura fireworks of Lakmé’s “Bell song” but made the mistake of also placing Bach’s “Coffee cantata” on her available repertoire. Apparently believing she would not be asked for the lighter piece she proved unprepared when she had to sing it.
D UTCH PROMI s E AT LA s T
Dutch National newspaper De Volkskrant noted fine local talent in soprano Wendela Bronsgeest and bass John Janssen. The latter was even hailed by a critic as the true discovery of the competition, “even though he clearly entered the competition far too early in his studies.” This confirms what was written on this topic in 1974: for some Dutch singers competing in ‘s-Hertogenbosch was a choice made more lightly than competing internationally, which required serious investments.
O N BALANCE
Mitsuko Shirai became one of the most celebrated Lieder interpreters of the next three decades and ranks among the top-20 of most celebrated IVC winners in all. Drew Minter matured into a groundbreaking countertenor who helped shape the great baroque revolution from the 1980s onwards. Dinah Harris, Mihaela Agachi, Frieder Lang, Norbert Prasser and Wendela Bronsgeest all had fine national careers. Bass-baritone John Janssen achieved a splendid operatic career in Germany, starting at the Munich Opera.
“Hardly 20, the American ‘boy’ Drew Minter could be proud of his second prize. With his innate musicality, style, keen sense of timing and his technical skills, he will mature into a great artist in just a few years from now.” (De Volkskrant, September 9, 1976)
“During the finals one noticed a shift in attention level among the audience when English alto Linda Finnie entered the stage. Despite her youth the artistic importance of this singer was clear in Mahler and Gluck.” (Brabants Dagblad, September 11, 1977)
“What Linda Finnie lacked in taste for dresses, she made up with her talent for song. She sounded ripe and ready, and was awarded with an ovation during the finals. The Jury mentioned her charisma as a special feature.” (De Telegraaf, September 12, 1977)
“Raili Viljakainen, ‘the fresh flower from Finland,’ surpassed her achievement s from the finals in songs by Richard Strauss. She will surely become a singer of the highest caliber.” (Brabants Dagblad, September 15, 1977)
With the Casino Theatre just having reopened after years of renovation the 24th IVC was back in its original location. The UK now provided the largest contingent of participants, among them “the singing sisters” Patricia and Doreen O’Neill. Following the recent victories of Shuiski Takahashi, Yuko Tsuji and Mitsuko Shirai Japan sent a record number of seven candidates. On top of that, Nigeria send its first ever candidate. The Gala Concert of winners was conducted by André Rieu senior – father of the now world famous violinist/concert master André Rieu junior!
rabants Dagblad noted that although one couldn’t yet tell if the audience would have something to listen to in the singing sisters, they had much to look forward to! When both sisters survived the preliminary rounds they were the talk of the town. Onwards, they made fine UK careers and became active in advancing young talent.
For those who wonder about possible family relations: the sisters were part of a trio with Elizabeth O'Neill and their brother was indeed Dennis O'Neill, who became an international tenor celebrity.
O PENING CONCERT
The coinciding of last year’s kermes with the IVC opening inspired
a genuine opening concert for the 24th edition of the IVC. One newspaper recalled Mayor Van Sonsbeek of Breda once opening a concert with the words, ‘Where Beethoven speaks, the Mayor must not’, pointing to the IVC opening concert that had the overture of Weber’s Der Freischütz interrupted by the complete IVC board entering the auditorium. As if to make up for the disturbance there were sightseeing tours through the city, a Press conference in the Golden Tulip Hotel including a meet & greet with the jury!
T HE f INAL s
Although William Elvin came out on top of his bass/baritone competitor Graham Titus, one critic thought the latter’s long spun arches in Brahms so impressive that he might as well have been awarded the Great Prize. Raili Viljakanen entered the finals as the sure winner. When she travelled up and down to East–Berlin for a post semi-finals concert there, she arrived tired to the finals. She still made a first prize, but the expected Great Prize of the City was lost between East-Berlin and ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
T HE CONCERT
With seven winners in the Gala Concert, conductor André Rieu Sr. had his hands full in the new Casino Theatre Hall. It was constructed with state of the art elements and novelties, including “flexible acoustics,” made possible by an adjustable sound screen. Another novelty were flexible curtains that rolled up in the roof of the auditorium rather than to the sides. In that ambiance audience and press were more than willing to forgive any young singer for nerves and the things that come with making one’s stage debut before an audience. Linda Finnie made her mark and Raili Viljakanen (meanwhile well rested from the Berlin intermezzo) surpassed herself in songs by Richard Strauss. Both were rewarded with curtain calls. Daisietta Kim provided lush sound in four songs by Argentine composer Rodrigo, a novelty in Den Bosch. Today’s fans of Alan Titus find in the broadcast recording of the Gala his first fine renditions of songs by Rachmaninoff, Brahms and… Daan Manneke!
“Although registered in the song category, Graham Titus’s singing in an aria from Mendelssohn’s Paulus was no less convincing. He also showed courage by singing not just a popular Schubert song, but also a composition by a contemporary Dutch composer.” (Hein Zomerdijk, Brabants Dagblad, September 10, 1977)
“Grzegorz Caban is a typical ‘Italianate’ opera tenor, which made his Carmen aria (‘La fleur que tu m’avais jetée’) ‘hammy,’ as the Americans say.” (Hans C. M. van Rooy, September 1978)
“He surpassed his competition achievements with his Gala Concert renditions of ‘Amor ti vieta’ and ‘Quando le sere al placid.’ His voice is one to envy, and his youthful ardor works decidedly to his advantage.” (Hein Zomerdijk, Brabants Dagblad, September 7, 1978)
“Larissa Shevchenko should have been awarded the Great Prize of the City Den Bosch after the President of the Jury dubbed her voice a gift from heaven nurtured in life.” Limburgs Dagblad, September 1978)
“During the Gala Concert one could finally hear why Shevchenko’s voice had been called ‘a gift from heaven.’ […] One could relish in the rare splendor of her voice. She sculpted her arias from Boïto’s Mefistofele and Verdi’s Il Trovatore beautifully. Her final and finest number, Tatyana’s ‘Letter scene’ from Evgeni Onegin, proved a triumph of lyricism.’ (Brabants Dagblad, September 7, 1978)
The year 1978 brought the 25th edition of the IVC, an occasion that called for retrospectives, celebrations, a jubilee book and… the first IVC vinyl release since the two 45RPM recordings of 1956 winners Edna Graham, Halina Łukomska and Elly Ameling. It was a double LP album brimming with recordings of meanwhile illustrious former IVC winners. Speculations in the press that the festive 25th anniversary marked the possible end of the IVC, proved “fake news.”.
Although the opening concert was canceled because the kermes in front of the Casino produced too much noise, the silver jubilee was notably celebrated with two performances of Così fan tutte. The cast was entirely made up of former IVC winners Adrienne Csengery and Patricia Price (both “utterly charming as Fiordiligi and Dorabella”), Nan Christie (“a vixen as Despina!”), Wynford Evans and John Bröcheler (both inging and acting fabulously) and Thomas Thomaschke, meanwhile appointed Kammersänger.’ The jury was likewise largely drafted from former IVC winners Eva Bornemann (1955), Halina Łukomska (1956), Bernard Kruysen (1958) and Sigmund Nimsgern (1969). Viorica Cortez was to have completed that list but the meanwhile World famous Romanian mezzo soprano couldn’t make it in the end.
Among the semi finalists were no less than six Dutch vocalists, including the later famous mezzo-soprano Jard van Nes. The Soviet Union rought large and dramatic voices to Den Bosch, although some thought that the refined English sopranos Elaine Woods and Kathleen Livingstone were nearly on par with the Soviet power play. In the end the Jury’s task was made easy by the large public support for SovietUkrainian diva Larissa Shevchenko. President of the Jury Manus Willemsen dubbed her voice “a gift from Heaven.” Shevchenko had not entered the finals as favorite though, but after semi-final favorite Russian soprano Inessa Khotetovskaya lost her nerves over stage fright in the finals, Shevchenko rose to the challenge.
T HE ART O f THE A LTU s D AVID jAME s
“During the finals, David James was the sure winner in his category. His program of songs and arias by Purcell, Cavalli, and Händel revealed great expressive means.” (Dutch newspaper clipping).
While press and audience still marveled over the new countertenor voices, juror Lode Devos explained that the correct name for that voice type was Altus. “Countertenor” was a made-up word introduced by Alfred Deller who tried to link the altus voice to more familiar male tenor ground. Devos explained that there were two types of altus voices, one singing in the falsetto register with “shoulder resonance” and the other the boy soprano who continued to sing in the soprano register post register break.
T HE G ALA C ONCERT
For the 25th IVC Gala Concert expectations were heightened and most participants surpassed their achievements in the finals, starting with the very handsome Polish tenor Grzegorz Caban, who gave glorious renditions of arias from Fedora and Luisa Miller. Elaine Wood‘s mildness in combination with her expressive temperament was dubbed “touching”. The beauty of her singing "Il est doux, il est bon" from Hérodiade can still be perceived through the broadcast recording. An entertaining highlight was the unusual combination of British baritone Ingemar Korjus with Soviet-Tadjikistan soprano Alla Ablaberdieva in the Papageno-Papagena duet from Die Zauberflöte. Nerves and challenges weren’t just reserved for the singers at the final concert, since the jubilee edition brought the local premieres of arias from Fedora, Il trovatore, Luisa Miller, Simon Boccanegra and Evgeni Onegin, also novelties to conductor André Rieu Sr. When Shevchenko once again excelled in the Tchaikovsky scene the audience was treated to a performance that was both authentic and thrilling.
‘Among tenors, the American Howard Crook sounded distinguished and knowledgeable. His voice wasn’t even that impressive when compared to the natural talents of his immediate competitors Tsukoika and Peter Jeffes. Yet, Crook’s mature artistry, his innate musicality and his impeccable technique proved too impressive for them to challenge Crook.’ (Brabants Dagblad, September 10, 1979.)
‘The air was rife with compassion and admiration for those youngsters that challenged the odds with their voices and talent. The IVC remains an event with a myriad of aspects that make it what it is, an educational and a musical celebration that has unique social and artistic value for city, province and country. As long as it preserves those values it should continue. (Hein Zomerdijk, Brabants Dagblad, September 10, 1979.)
“Miricioiù’s interpretation of the aria ‘È strano!’ with the dazzling cabaletta brought the dramatic eruptions of Maria Callas in our minds.” (NRC, September 10, 1979)
Brabants Dagblad published a backstage reportage on the finals on Saturday, when the Casino Theatre Den Bosch was buzzing from excitement, tension, and enthusiasm. The focus on the atmosphere reflected the new tone of voice in reviews. Somewhere along the 1970s the press gave up any pretext of “professional distance.” Even eminent journalists such as Hein Zomerdijk, quoted above, became passionate supporters, accentuating the value of the IVC in a political arena where the financial backbone was ever more challenged.
I t was considered a miracle that even past its silver jubilee the IVC was still on a par with the competitions in Munich, Barcelona, Geneva and the Royal Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. While those handed substantially higher prize money to winners, ‘s-Hertogenbosch had succeeded in making long term friends in the international world of vocal teaching. The once criticized provincial good heartedness, highlighted by many of the city’s inhabitants hosting candidates as a charity, was now seen as the IVC’s unique selling point and the driving force behind the competition’s longevity.
P A s T THE sILVER jUBILEE Speculations that the Silver Jubilee edition of the previous year sort of brought the competition full circle “in a time where multi media developments made competitions superfluous” [pre internet and
mobile phones! – RS] were countered by journalists who pointed out that the number of participants was actually increasing. Young singers clearly drew inspiration from the contest, some hoping to achieve a push forward, others looking for introspection. Either way talent needed a real audience to bloom and the IVC provided a safe but challenging battleground which now included the new ‘Donemus’ (Dutch living composers rights foundation) prize and the Janine Micheau prize, made available by some of her former pupils.
N ERVE w REC k ING
For the hosting families that flocked the contest from day one to support their singing guests, the IVC guaranteed nerve wrecking days where hope, fear and despair went hand in hand. Unlike today’s television competitions where failing candidates are among the prime attractions, the IVC always aimed to protect candidates from negative exposure. Therefore the first rounds were not open to the public, since these still included candidates who arrived prematurely.
T HE CONCERT
“Nelly Miricioiù is an opera diva pur sang who commands the trade to perfection. Her arias of B ellini, Charpentier and Donizetti were a triumph of vocal virtuosity. She brought the audience to a frenzy.” (NRC, September 14, 1979)
On the evening of September 12, 1979, Nelly Miricioiù started her life long relationship with the Dutch audiences. The Dutch soon treasured her as the heir to the their Matinee idol of the 1960 and 70’s Magda Olivero in verismo repertoire and to Dame Joan Sutherland in Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi. Seldom had an IVC Gala Concert garnered such rave reviews as this one, which is all the more remarkable since the 1979 IVC had brought forth only one first prize winner, with the Great Prize of the City of Den Bosch not even being awarded. With the orchestra rolling out a magic carpet the natural dramatic qualities of Miricioiù bloomed and she excelled. In the slipstream of Miricioiù’s triumph, Dutch soprano Coby Dijk scored a home run with a superb Bellini aria that blended vocal warmth with sensitivity and sapless. A surprise performance of the quintet from Mozart’s Così fan tutte by Peter Herford, Coby Dijk, Mary Burgett, Howard Crook and Peter Savidge under the new IVC conductor André Vandernoot brought the audience to its feet.
“After her stupendous
(Hein Zomerdijk, Brabants Dagblad, September 8,
“Cioromila sang the ‘Seguidille’ from Carmen seductively.” (Chris de Jong-Stolle, NRC, September 9, 1980)
“On the grounds of the semi-finals and finals, we expected Thomas Hampson to win the First Prize in his voice category.” Brabants Dagblad, 1980)
“During the Gala Concert, Second Prize winner Thomas Hampson was on a par with the First Prize winner in his voice category, his voice perhaps a shade fuller, his technique a shade suppler.” NRC, 1980)
When the aspiring American baritone Thomas Hampson arrived to ‘s-Hertogenbosch for the 1980 edition of the IVC the odds were not in his favour: ‘I landed in Frankfurt, took a train to Freiburg and then caught a cold. After working with a pianist there took the train to a Dutch city of which never managed to pronounce the name: skertoggenbosrj? Anyway, upon arriving there my cold had developed into bronchitis and I felt really sick. At the time I had no money whatsoever, let alone to pay a doctor. That is where chance stepped in. I was hosted by a wonderful private family in Den Bosch and these people actually tried to smuggle me into national Dutch healthcare
so I could get treated for my bronchitis. The mother took me to a hospital claiming I was her deaf-dumb husband and thus actually received an anti-coughing medicine. By the time I had to participate I was recovered enough to land a Second Prize!’
sTAR O f THE wINNER ’s G ALA
Three days after his illness, a fully recovered Hampson appeared in the Winner’s Gala. With his bronchitis cured, some reporters noted that he now sounded better than the First Prize winner, which reflected the dynamics of many competitions: if a future star is not recognized in any given edition of a voice competition, the singer may have been indisposed, such as Hampson in this year.
Entries can also come too early, such as Jules Bastin’s in 1961 when he was not yet the Great Prize winner that he would be in 1962.
For the majority of the participants, the IVC also presents an important opportunity to learn and mature as an artist in a competitive environment with an audience and press in attendance. Intense pressure has caused quite a few proclaimed winners from the second round to collapse in the finals.
H AMP s ON UN -s HO w ERED ’… Hampson’s further account of his conquest of Europe gives a bewildering perspective on the circumstances under which young singers make the rounds from competitions to auditions and back: sang at the concert and hopped in a train for a tour of audition through Europe, for which had taken a cheap Eurail abonnement. I ate cans of vegetable soup with meatballs and arranged for night trains, to save on hotels. I only took hotels the night before auditions, since I had to be presentable of course, and the trains had no showers… Well, hopped of in Düsseldorf and got a four years contract on the spot! Since I was there anyway, decided to at least honour the terms that had been set up for my further auditions in Zürich and Dresden and guess what; they also offered me contracts on the spot! I still chose Düsseldorf because felt that theatre gave me the best opportunities to build repertoire and gain experience. Two years later Nicolaus Harnoncourt asked me to audition for him. Onwards my life became a movie plot, the rest is history.
“The young 20-year-old soprano Anne Dawson proved a phenomenon. A personality with a highprofile sound, without mannerisms, and with a versatility that is rarely encountered among singers of her age. The jury dubbed her ‘a complete artist.’” (Roland de Beer, De Volkskrant, September 7, 1981)
“Stupendous; we should thank providence for the chance to hear her. Timbre, technique, musicality, interpretation and sense of style were immaculate.”
(Chris de Jong-Stolle, Brabants Dagblad, September 7, 1981)
“Jan Opalach was introduced as a lieder singer and proved a marvel in songs by Wolf, Ravel and Poulenc. The surprise was that his performance in oratorio was equally fine.” Mens en Melodie, September 1981)
“Tenor Howard Haskin made a deep impression with ‘In Dreams I’ve Built Myself’ from Peter Grimes and then also with Don José’s aria from Carmen. During the semi-finals he entertained his audience with a funny rendition of ‘Het strijkje’ by Straesser.” Mens en Melodie, September 1981)
“Howard Haskin’s first prize in the IVC’s tenor category was the first one in fifteen years.” (Howard Haskin on his website, 2014)
The rise in the 1960s and ’70s of IVC-winning African-American opera singers culminated in Howard Haskin’s 1981 victory. It propelled him into a magnificent career that includes over fifty operatic roles, among them a legendary Otello in Nice 1995. Haskin was one of the first tenors of color ever to have sung Verdi’s Moor in a major opera house. American bass-baritone Jan Opalach became a staple of the New York City Opera and was ultimately cast in the world premiere of Philip Glass’s The Voyage at the Metropolitan Opera – who said modern music could not come from ‘s-Hertogenbosch!
T he lack of modern repertoire was actually discussed in the press with founding father and long time IVC chairman Frans van de Ven, who thought the discussion on repertoire superfluous: “These singers compete in a competition that prepares them for the stages and concert houses of the world with the repertoire that is in demand there. Why force them in directions that are of no use to them? Conservatories hardly prepare singers for the specific demands of contemporary repertoire. For this reason alone we have organized master classes with Dorothy Dorrow over the past three years. Unfortunately it turned out that instrumentalists and accompanist needed further training as well to cope with the demands of contemporary music. That drowned out the funds and so it stopped.”
H OME GRO w N TALENT ON THE RI s E
With eleven Dutch participants, five of which made it tot he semi-finals, Van de Ven hoped that the reluctance of Dutch singers to participate was overcome. He pointed out that a prize or even a place in the IVC finals guaranteed straight access to sometimes even the finals important other international competitions. The IVC also took its educational function serious: “All first round candidates who fail to pass to the semi-finals are given the option for a evaluation meeting with a juror who explains the decision and give them some well intended advice. For those with enough introspective abilities the competition will always have value. What matters is what you do with any given result.”
I T s POURING ( NE w) PRIZE s
One Dutch newspaper noted that Den Bosch had two specialties: the Bosssche bol (a whipped cream stuffed cake with chocolate topping) and the IVC. Being equally famous for different reasons, the IVC had a reputation of being cautious with handing out prizes. It was therefore special to see four first prizes being awarded in the 1981 edition, two of which fell in the soprano category. The youngest participant, Anne Dawson (21), went off with the Great Prize of the City as well. With no less than fifteen prizes available, newspapers brought headlines such as “its pouring prizes” [which made the task of the designer of this book rather hard on the left page – RS].
O N PARTING
The most significant change in prizes was parting with the name givers of the four main prizes. Since 1954 these had been named after soprano Aaltje Noordewier-Reddingius, tenor Jacques Urlus, baritone Jos Orelio and English alto Kathleen Ferrier, who was among the founding jurors but died unexpectedly before the 1954 competition started. The prize was then named after her in tribute. By 1981 few people under fifty years old had any recollection of the Dutch opera celebrities of the pre war period and the prizes were brought in line with the countertenor prize.
“At the concluding Gala Concert the winners wholly justified their prizes, except… mezzo-soprano Anna Caleb, whose performance was prevented by a bomb alarm aimed against a gathering of politicians elsewhere in the Casino Theatre - a combination that would best be avoided in the future.” (Karin Maria Kwant, Mens en Melodie, October 1982)
BOMBs IN DEN BOsCH!
When no less than 130 applicants of 32 countries wanted to enter the 29th International Vocal Competition ’s-Hertogenbosch, the organization was compelled to limit admission to 110 participants. Half of them competed in song, the other half in opera and oratorio. The Winners Gala Concert ended prematurely when a bomb threat came in just before Anna Caleb was due to sing.
By now the press was past the days in which they participated in heated debates on public favourites. Some believed the general level to be lower than usual but acknowledged that the audience enjoyed the competition for the atmosphere and debating various favourites. The press had also accepted the fact that only the future would tell what the average level had actually been and focused also on other aspects of the competition, such as this year’s prominent jurors French soprano Mady Mesplé and Dutch mezzo-soprano Cora Canne Meijer.
practice ... after a week she told me she couldn’t live in Poland anymore. I begged her to return to her husband and her son of three, but she was determined to go to Amsterdam. took her to the station and bought her ticket, and that was the last I heard of her.’” (AD, September 13, 1982)
“Polish soprano Elżbieta Szmytka’s tonal security and expressive means in a difficult Lutosławski song and her souplesse in Rusalka’s aria guaranteed her place in the finals.” (Brabants Dagblad, September 4, 1982)
Mayor Ben van Zwieten, Anna Caleb
“The bomb threat prevented Caleb from repeating her achievement of singing Rosina’s cavatina from Il barbiere di Siviglia with three different ornamentations and each interpretation radically opposed to the previous ones. Shame on this bomber for not having waited with his threat for just a few minutes more!” (Henry de Rouville, “Au fond ils ont besoins d’être aimés,” September 1982)
T HE “D UTCH ” ELEMENT
All four Dutch semi-finalists, among them mezzo Rachel Ann Morgan and baritone Maarten Flipse, came from the Dutch National Opera School, which saw the IVC as a fine first test for its pupils. Another novelty that caught the attention of the press was that some foreign participants, such as Hillary Reynolds, were studying with Dutch vocal teachers, Reynolds with Corrie Bijster. Nonetheless, the Dutch Music Prize went once again to Japanese soprano Shihomi InouéHeller, who earned it with a Robert Heppener song, ‘The plunge’.
Tw O P OLI s H “ wINNER s”
“When Katarzyna Wantuch arrived, the IVC couldn’t find her application. Nonetheless, the young 32-year-old lost ‘singer’ was hosted by Mrs. Hagemans. When she noticed a silver spoon missing, she assumed that her guest was in distress. Mrs. Hagemans: ‘I never heard her sing or
Following her 1982 IVC victory Polish soprano Elzbieta Szmytka was engaged by the Dutch National Opera, where she debuted as Blondchen. She actually learned Dutch and settled in Brussels following her 1984 debut at De Munt. Since then she has achieved an impressive international career. Of Katarzyna Wantuch’s further career nothing is known, but having escaped communism through the IVC was a remarkable “victory” in itself.
L AC k ING DEPTH …
“Ildikó Komlósi secured her Second Prize mostly with her clear and beautiful mezzo voice, although she needs to reach deeper levels of interpretation.” (Brabants Dagblad, September 6, 1982)
The Jury recognized Hungarian mezzosoprano Ildikó Komlósi’s considerable talents very early in her development. Ultimately it was the 1986 Luciano Pavarotti Voice Competition that catapulted her to world fame. Every other important opera house in the world has since succumbed to her huge and beautiful voice, as did conductors from Colin Davis to Zubin Mehta and Antonio Pappano.
Brabant Orchestra under Jan Stulen accompanied Brabant-born Nellie van der Sijde with Mozartian charm in ‘Porgi amor’ from Le nozze di Figaro, and she sang it to perfection. Her light, agile voice and her musical understanding are magnificent not only in arias but also in lieder, as could be heard in Wolf and, even better, in Schubert’s ‘Gretchen am Spinnrade,’ very accurately accompanied from the piano by Frans van Ruth.” (Ferd op de Coul, Brabants Dagblad, September 8, 1983)
THE yEAR Of THE MEZZOs
The 1983 edition of the IVC ranks high among the more famous ones in the competition’s history. Audience and part of the press sensed true ‘star potential’ in Judith Malafronte and Elisabeth Campbell, who was thought worthy of the Great prize herself. And yet, the general level was judged “lower than before and increasingly so”, which caused reporters to ask, “if it was realistic to continue the IVC on an annual basis? Wouldn’t it be better to have it every two, or even three years?” Because, said Mens & Melodie’s Karin Maria Kwant: “As with piano, violin or cello competitions all over the world, one cannot expect to have new top level every month.”
Elizabeth CampbellJudith Malafronte
O n deeper reading, Kwant’s problem with the annual sequence of the IVC was not so much the average level of participants, but rather the observation that numerous recent winners such as Malafronte were in fact returning candidates, repeating or improving their earlier results. A bi-annual competition would see less returning cadidates. That observation was true but not exactly new: multiple listings of a (select) number of candidates in consecutive years was common practice at the IVC (and elsewhere) since the early 1960s, when competitions became veritable hatching grounds for networking. For the participants, hat aspect was equally important to winning some prize. Making it to the finals already guaranteed contacts. Which in itself is a good thing. The same goes for the still rising number of smaller prizes for this and that, now even in name of three sopranos and one mezzo! The press belittled the tombola element in so many prizes, but for participants these sideprizes could still make the difference backstage.
“The ‘Day of the Mezzos’ became an overwhelming triumph for the American mezzo Judith Malafronte, whose reputation is already established. Malafronte, age 32, has a bell-like voice and fabulous technique, especially in coloratura. The only one to receive a curtain call during the finals, she triumphed even before the jury had a chance to honour her.” (Brabants Dagblad September 1983)
American mezzo-soprano Judith Malafronte (b. August 20, 1951, New Haven, Connecticut) told Brabants Dagblad that she had to overcome some fears in order to return to Den Bosch, where she had lost in the 1982 semifinals. Said Malafronte: “A little voice inside my head kept bugging me to try again. So many things happened that year, so many
people gave all sorts of advice, and got confused. … I am glad I got the chance to show the people here what I have been doing for the past year. … I learned my trade from Giulietta Simionato, an amazing and energetic living legend who taught me to approach each role in any given language individually. … More theoretical and technical things I studied with Nadia Boulanger. I prefer tragic roles to comic opera because in my heart I am a serious person and then, well, comic roles are much more difficult because timing is crucial for the effect.”
Malafronte had an impressive career in opera, oratorio, and recital. She recorded for BMG, DHM, EMI and Koch in a wide range of repertoire, from the 12th-century chant of Hildegard von Bingen to Richard Strauss, as well as Händel operas, Bach cantatas, medieval music and 17th-century Spanish music.
“Malafronte may be the star of this IVC, yet one should not overlook the excellent competition from considerable talents such as Elizabeth Campbell whose rendition of a song cycle by De Falla was a first-class achievement.” (Brabants Dagblad, September 1983)
“The Australian Elizabeth Campbell made a tremendous impact with some Schönberg songs, rendered with great dramatic power, rich colouring and an enormous compass.” (Brabants Dagblad on the Concert of the Winners, September 1983)
Australian mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Campbell graduated from the Sydney Conservatory of Music and completed her studies in London and Europe. Apart from winning a Second Prize and the Elly Ameling Song Prize in Den Bosch, she represented Australia in the brand new Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. Her operatic repertoire includes leading roles in operas by Mozart, Mussorgsky, Händel, Berlioz, Verdi, Wagner, Giordano and Britten. She sang in the world premieres of Richard Mills’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (1996), Batavia (2001) and The Love of the Nightingale (2002) and Moya Henderson’s Lindy (2002).
“Frans Fiselier sang very intensely in Dutch songs by Ton de Leeuw. His Garcia Lorca songs were treated with the highest level of nuance and expression by Fiselier and his excellent accompanist, Han-Louis Meijer. Fiselier also proved master of the required style and artistry in ornamentation for Händel.” (Ferd op de Coul, Brabants Dagblad, September 1984)
A fEMALE PREsIDENT
It took 31 years before anyone considered to let a female juror, Cora Canne Meijer, preside over the IVC jury. The same reporter that had previously questioned the practice of participants enrolling twice or even thrice, now wished for promising young soprano Maria Schäfer to return when her voice would have ripened. A novelty this year was that the winner of the IVC would be allowed to compete in the Concours International Lyrique in Monaco, which was limited to the winners of the seven most prestigious vocal competitions of the day. In advance it was sure that they would not see a South-African IVC winner in Monaco, since at last minute the only South-African candidate was banned from entering the IVC in the wake of the boycott of the Apartheid regime there.
media attendance forcing would force the competition into becoming a bi-annual event. The official view was that this would not increase the average level. It would just cut costs along with results, since half of the now famous winners of the past would not have been on the list of winners had the IVC been a bi-annual event. That could have included the soon to be famous winners of the 1983 edition, Lani Poulsen and Thomas Mohr!
L ANI P OUL s ON
“Poulson’s victory was not unexpected given her experience and the fact that she barely got in under the age limit of 32. That did not lessen her fantastic performance of Diepenbrock’s refined song ‘Les chats’, which attested to deep understanding. From there she jumped effortlessly to ‘Sein wir wieder gut’ from Ariadne auf Naxos, completely uninhibited and marvelously acted; next, she turned Rossini’s ‘La regata veneziana’ into a babbling brook of wonders.” (Leidse Courant, September 1984)
“There were many dramatic operatic mezzos and am a lyric mezzo. I didn’t want to compete with them, so filled out ‘song’ as my specialty.” (Lani Poulson in Brabants Dagblad, September 1984)
In 1978 American mezzo-soprano Lani Poulson (b. 1954, Utah) was eliminated in the IVC semifinals. When she returned victorious in 1984 this helped her build a major career, during which she was closely associated with the De Munt Opera in Brussels, the Semperoper in Dresden and Staatsoper Stuttgart. In Stuttgart she participated in the world premieres of Salvatore Sciarrino’s Perseo ed Andromeda (1991), Wolfgang Rihm’s Das Schweigen der Sirenen (1994), Andreas Breitscheid’s Im Spiegel wohnen (2003) and Nicholas Lens’s Slow Man (2012). An important achievement was her appearance in Claude Vivier’s fascinating Kopernikus in Amsterdam (2003).
T HOMA s M OHR
“Thomas Mohr may well write history as the revelation of this tournament, for it is a rare bird who can dominate so completely at the early age of 22 – this was his first-ever competition! Diepenbrock’s ‘Celebrität’ received such loving caresses, Loewe’s ‘Odins Meeresritt’ sounded so naturally imbued with fantasy and refinement that ‘Bin das Faktotum’ hardly mattered.” (Leidse Courant, September 1984)
nother novelty was that all participants now had to perform a composition of Dutch origin, which by now had become an odd Japanese specialty. Peculiarly, most 1984 participants ended up singing an Alphons Diepenbock songs. The new requirement forced people to study completely new material which had a limiting effect on the number of participants; a welcome development, since the IVC had barely been able to cope with the ever rising number of applicants in recent years. Further changes in mandatory repertoire in opera, oratorio and orchestra accompanied songs were made to ensure that winners were up to the task of the Winners’ Concert, which was under siege after KRO radio, which had been broadcasting the IVC Gala Concerts from 1954 onwards, had stopped broadcasting the event. Although TROS radio stepped in, the IVC board worried that dwindling
“His German-language rendition of the ‘Largo al factotum’ was the swashbuckling finale of the festive evening.” (Brabants Dagblad, September 1984)
German baritone/tenor Thomas Mohr (b.1961) was still studying voice in Lübeck when he launched his coup at the 1984 IVC. Wisely, he finished his studies afterwards. He eventually joined the Bonn Opera and became a renowned recitalist. He worked with conductors such as Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Lorin Maazel, Antonio Pappano, Georg Solti and Zubin Mehta. And that was only as a baritone; enter the tenor Thomas Mohr, following his successful debut as Idomeneo and Siegmund, followed by the title role Parsifal, Max in Der Freischütz, and Loge in Das Rheingold!
“Elena Bryleva is only 24, but already in possession of a glorious, radiant coloratura voice that can rise effortlessly and completely evenly throughout the scale to high F. If only she could be less introverted and overcome her natural shyness.” (Utrechts Nieuwsblad, September 1985)
“This Madonna-like sopranino has a very bright timbre with a penetrating tonal center. Her interpretations of Britten, Donizetti and RimskyKorsakov were as brilliant as they were controlled.” (Theo Muller, “Vocalistenconcours verliest aantrekkingskracht,” September 1985)
Halfway the 1980s the world, including the Netherlands, went through a grave financial crisis. With the IVC’s finances under pressure since years now, the board used 1985 to become more visible as part of the local community by means of festive appearances in Den Bosch of illustrious IVC winners of the past fifteen years. Rave reviews for Bach’s Johannes Passion in March with Lynda Russel (1980), David James (1981), Kenzo Ishi (1982), Wynford Evans (1971), Thomas Thomaschke (1971) and Thomas Mohr (1984) certainly helped. That and the IVC opening the preliminary rounds to the public for the first time ever resulted in the city guaranteeing the IVC financial security for another four years. On that notion the East-European candidates gained momentum and restored the days where Soviet and Romanian singers almost monopolized prizes.
The Great Prize was not awarded, but soprano Elena Bryleva and bass Boris Bechko won first prizes for the USSR, as did Elisabeth Bachmann-McQueen for East Germany. The only exception was US mezzo-soprano first prize winner Jenny Miller. All second prizes went to Eastern Europe as well, springing the two stars to be of this competition, Romanian soprano Leontina Văduva and Russian bass Alexander Naumenko (in what was considered the weakest competition since 1954!).
L EONTINA V ĂDUVA
“Flashing lots of skin and blingbling, Romanian beauty Leontina Văduva had her own approach to presentation. After a bravura performance of Ravel’s ‘L’air du feu’ from L’enfant et les sortilèges and a virtuoso trifle from Duke, she managed to sing Verdi’s ‘E’ strano’ with exactly the same ease.” (Theo Muller, “IVC loses appeal,” September 9, 1985)
“A flamboyant appearance. She wrapped the audience around her finger with her charming personality. […] A full, rich timbre, and thus she was elected to represent the IVC at the Arena di Verona Competition for
First Prize winners.” (Leidsch Dagblad, September 9, 1985)
Romanian soprano Leontina Văduva (b. December 1, 1960, Roșiile) proudly carried the torch of impressive Romanian IVC winners that began in 1963 into the 1980s. Văduva studied at the Bucharest Conservatory and with Ileana Cotrubaș and, following her IVC triumph, she debuted as Manon in Toulouse in 1987. She defected to the West in 1988 following engagements in Paris and Covent Garden: “As a student, I remember singing in a theatre where it was minus four degrees and the orchestra was playing with gloves. The public in the theater theatre were dressed as if they were outside. Music carried us through this very difficult period.” In Covent Garden she appeared as Gilda (1989), Micaëla (1991 and 1994) and Juliette (1994). In 2000 she debuted at the Metropolitan Opera as Mimì. The 1985 edition of the IVC ultimately culminated in Văduva’s glittering rendition of “Summertime” from Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess
A LE x ANDER N AUMEN k O
“Alexander Naumenko – a Ukrainian teddy bear in his old-school, Soviet-style suit – pitched himself perhaps a bit too low in Borodin and Schubert, but Orff’s tongue-twister ‘O hätt’ ich meiner Tochter nur geglaubt’ was rendered in virtuoso style. Concentrated and experienced.” (Theo Muller, “IVC loses appeal,” September 1985)
Born into a musical family, USSR People’s Artist Alexander Naumenko (b. 1956, Vorozhba, Ukraine) was ultimately unsuccessful at the Moscow Conservatory and gave up singing. He took a job as a labourer in a leather factory until he was unexpectedly summoned back to the Moscow Conservatory. A prizes in the 1984 Glinka Competition enabled him to enter into the postgraduate course of 1985. IVC juror Nina Dorliac (who was of course not allowed to vote for her own pupil). Naumenko continued his studies with Hans Hotter in Vienna, and in 1991 he was appointed soloist of the Bolshoi Theatre, where he has been a leading bass since.
“This year, for the first time in the IVC Competition, the Brabant Orchestra accompanied each candidate on one aria in the finals. Thus, finalists had to appear twice, first for the piano finals in the afternoon and then for the work of their choice with orchestra.
The results were worlds apart. Some candidates sang completely differently with orchestral accompaniment. Amazingly, conductor Jan Stulen managed to interpret all the different elements in this potpourri of musical history within their own idiom.”
(Gérard Verlinden, “TV-opname en orkestbegeleiding,” September 1986)
“All eyes are now on Qing Miao, a stunning vocal and dramatic talent.” (Eindhovens Dagblad on the semifinals, September 1986)
“It’s hardly surprising that the Chinese woman studying in France, Qing Miao (a name that caused some giggles in the auditorium), achieved a complete victory in this year’s competition. She displayed a certain charm and was the only one who demonstrated by voice and stage presence how to captivate an audience, including the jury. We will see how far she gets with it.” Eindhovens Dagblad September 1986)
Chinese mezzo-soprano Qing Miao was a pupil of Wang Bingrui at the Bejing Conservatory of Music. In 1984 she took master classes from Carlo Bergonzi and Franco Corelli. Following her Great Prize and the Erna Spoorenberg Prize at the IVC 1986 she gave a delightful interview to Brabants Dagblad She proved most surprised by the audience: “In other competitions the audience is usually silent. Here people go crazy and cheer us on. That is very encouraging. And then to think that I was warned that the Dutch were stiff and distant people! From taxi drivers to bus drivers, everyone was helpful, except, well… there was this person who came to tell me that I had to get into my costume in three minutes because I was due in the semi-finals. I’m sure he won’t forget me grrrr!”
B orn in the coastal province Shantong, the Chinese mezzo stressed that her province had the largest people in China and it brought forth many strong voices: “My father infected me with his passion for Western classical music. From age fifteen onwards I studied singing. That was a struggle. My teachers kept me singing in my middle range, whereas longed to burst out in dramatic opera arias!” Miao’s chance came in 1981, when French soprano Jacqueline Brumaire went to China in order to scout a Carmen for a Chinese-French Carmen production and picked Miao out of countless candidates. It was an international success and Miao continued
her studies with Brumaire in Nantes. Miao: “Miss Brumaire seldom gives compliments. I’m sure she will be satisfied with the result here, but otherwise I expect to hear just what should be improved.” Since she won the Erna Spoorenberg prize, Miao was asked if she had any idea who that was? Miao: “Er…” In China Miao ultimately became a national celebrity, hosting radio and television shows and concertizing (now also teaching).
A NDREA R O s T
“Second Prize winner Andrea Rost should not even have been allowed to pass to the finals. A songbird that for the moment has no idea about Schubert, Verdi, Berg or Strauss, although the jury believes her to possess ‘a voice of rare beauty and the talent to communicate with the audience.’ Surely they didn’t mean the horrific shudders she caused in me?” (Eindhovens Dagblad, September 1986)
Hungarian soprano celebrity Andrea Rost (b. June 15, 1962, Budapest) came to Den Bosch at an extremely early point in her studies at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music as a pupil of Zsolt Bende. In retrospect her Second Prize is both amazing and a testimony to the jury’s system of judging voices on technical accomplishment, natural beauty and growth potential. While the press doubted her merits, Rost rose to the challenge in the concluding Winners’ Gala, where she reaped the only standing ovation of the evening. From there on her career went crescendo. Still only a student she made her Budapest Opera debut as Juliette in Gounod’s masterpiece. From there she went on to her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1996. At Covent Garden she sang the title role in the world concert premiere of Donizetti’s Elisabetta al castello di Kenilworth ; Among her discography are several recital discs with opera arias; her Mozart album is also on DVD.
“What does a Third Prize mean if those with no future are judged to be on a par with the unmistakably versatile and stylish vocal talent of Marie-Noëlle de Callataÿ? The 23-year-old Belgian, whose voice has matured ahead of her age even if it is not yet finished, surpassed all her competitors in terms of musical knowledge when it came to Mozart, Händel and Bizet; only Cameron surpassed her in technical respects. A most promising talent that should have been ranked higher.” (Frits van der Waa, De Volkskrant, September 7, 1987)
PRIZEs THAN wINNERs IVC UNDER sIEGE
Manus Willemsen had been active in the IVC since 1954 and his retirement from KRO Radio coincided with an internal crisis in the IVC’s management. Struggling with the demands of modern time the competition needed new impulses. First the broadcasting rights transferred from Willemsen’s KRO to NOS, then to TROS RTV. Post 1986 Willemsen could not accept the break with “his” KRO and left the IVC in bad standing. With that, the IVC’s audio archives were suddenly “lost”, since the former KRO director apparently had kept these privately from 1954 onwards. Luckily, some enthusiasts had taped the winners’s concerts from the radio from 1958 onwards and left their collections to the author of this book. These are now part of the 401IVCA.com archive website and in part published on the CD in the 2014 Jubilee Book.
T he 1987 edition of the IVC had Ruud van der Meer as president of the jury. Inexperienced in public relations he agreed with the press in stating that the 1987 edition was a year of particularly low level. That brought the discussion to the need for a bi-annual competition back in the spotlights. While time proved that the 1987 IVC was a fine year that brought the discovery of altus Erik Kurmangaliev, the call for turning the IVC into a bi-annual event was justified, although for different reasons: winners all over Europe were increasingly the same names. There were too many vocal competitions and the ever rising costs started to become a factor in that evaluation.
T RAN s GENDER f RIENDLy
“Apparently, during the preliminaries Erik Kurmangaliev forced his voice, which otherwise would have been able to rise to the unreachable heights of the second octave above the stave. This may have caused a certain piercing quality in his upper register. Otherwise this young Russian is a charming, serene stage personality whose achievements, even if difficult to compare with his female ‘competitors,’ deserve much better than to be judged on extravagance alone.” (De Volkskrant, September 7, 1987)
Soviet Kazakh countertenor Erik Kurmangaliev (b. January 2, 1959, Kulsary; d. November 13, 2007, Moscow) debuted with the Leningrad Philharmonic as early as 1980. People like Alfred Schnittke embraced his talent, although some regarded him as a circus act. In 1992 he appeared in a Russian play based loosely
on Madama Butterfly that made him a celebrity. Clearly born in the wrong body his life was far from easy. He contemplated transgender surgery, but did not undergo it. For all the obvious reasons he was never invited to sing at the Bolshoi Theatre and his unique talent was never fully understood. At age 47 he died of liver failure. What remains are fascinating recordings of his key repertoire and some moving Russian TV documentaries.
fIONA C AMERON
“The First Prize was certainly not the reason the jury was out so long. Fiona Cameron has all it takes for the concert stage, including a splendid and well-trained voice; she is self-assured and her confidence compensates for what she lacks in terms of interpretation. When she walked onstage people giggled over the enormous contrast between her shapely appearance and the tiny silhouette of her female Japanese accompanist. Those smirks ended once Cameron opened her mouth. In ‘Cara selve’ she demonstrated her technical abilities; in Villa-Lobos’s ‘Evacaçao’ she unfolded a rich palette of colours and expression, following which she concluded with a slightly pathetic but virtuoso rendition of an aria from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale. It brought the house down, yet the jury proved more convinced of last year’s winner Qing Miao when it came to selecting a First Prize winner to represent the IVC in the Verona Competition for First Prize winners.” (De Volkskrant September 7, 1987)
T ELEVI s ION HIT
What the president of the Jury considered “a lesser edition” proved a huge hit on Dutch national television when TROS TV aired a 55 minutes long special larded with interview fragments with participants from the early rounds onwards, culminating in a telecast of the Winners Concert, including the performances of Cameron, Kurmangaliev, French songbird Marie-Noëlle de Callatay and Chinese soprano Quilian Chen! This being the first preserved integral telecast of a concluding Gala Concert of Winners it ranks today as one of the absolute highlight in the IVC’s history.
“The Second Prize in Opera went to 27-year-old Claron McFadden, an American soprano living in the Netherlands. A charming appearance, whose light, effortlessly floating voice achieved a mesmerizing effect in arias by Verdi and Gounod.”
(Frits van der Waa, De Volkskrant, September 5, 1988)
“A soubrette with an unprecedented talent in the area where classical meets jazz, as proven by her rendition of ‘Summertime’ from Porgy and Bess - a souvenir from her American youth as a singer and trombonist in the Methodist Church.” (Katja Reichenfeld, NRC, September 5, 1988)
Ruth ZiesakAdrianne Pieczonka
The ongoing discussion on the merits of the IVC in the late 1980s urged the organization to make changes. Firstly the 1988 edition had singers compete in opera, oratorio and song rather than in the former voice categories. The organization found a new general manager in Marijke Roef. With a record number of 145 participants applying she had the wind at her back. Prize money rose to new heights and when the press mentioned costs for 1988 rising with an additional € 75.000 she replied: “Quality costs money and quality generates money. Therefore we have transformed the look and feel, from structure to the posters and program booklets. More modern and catchy. TROS Television will telecast the finals, which now will be with full orchestra.”
T he orchestra finals were perhaps the most significant development in the history of the IVC, since they replaced the Gala Concert of the Winners, which was wholly terminated. Effectively all these changes catapulted the IVC into the future, preparing it for the 1990s. By chance or not this event had a record number of participants, which caused significant problems because there weren’t enough host families in the IVC’s database. Such numbers also required a third accompanist. The press proved impressed and hailed the 35th edition as, “one of the best ever.”
A DRIANNE P IECZON k A
“During Friday’s finals Pieczonka, dressed in a black gown with spoilers at the shoulders, proved as familiar with Mozart as with the late romanticism of Catalani. She has a warm, glittering timbre and a superior technique. Most impressive: the direct impact of her natural expression. An exceptional singer who will achieve a lot.” (De Volkskrant, September 5, 1988)
“The voice follows her spirited, strong personality. She can express the contents of such different dramatic roles as Fiordiligi in Cos fan tutte and Wally in Catalani’s opera, all imbued with an unfailing interpretative instinct.” (NRC, September 5, 1988)
Following her undisputed IVC victory, soprano Adrianne Pieczonka (b. March 2, 1963, Poughkeepsie, New York) joined the Wiener Volksoper in 1989 and the Vienna State Opera in 1991. By 1994 she made her Metropolitan Opera debut. Her album “Adrianne Pieczonka sings Wagner and Strauss” was nominated for Classical Album of the Year 2007. It is hard to find conductors in her CV of lesser stature than Riccardo Muti, Zubin Mehta, Claudio Abbado, Lorin Maazel, Antonio Pappano or Georg Solti. Pieczonka is still a soprano to be reckoned with today.
R UTH Z IE s A k
“In her interpretations of Schubert, Brahms, Wolf and Berlioz songs, Ziesak demonstrated superb technical control and an equal talent for communicating the meaning of the lyrics, although I was a bit scared watching her extreme mugging. She was rewarded with the First Prize.” (Frits van der Waa, De Volkskrant September 5, 1988)
Ruth Ziesak (b. February 9, 1963) sang to great acclaim in Munich, Stuttgart, Berlin and Dresden and then went on to conquer Milan, Florence, Vienna, Paris, London and New York. She is renowned for her Mozart interpretations. She became one of the world’s most sought-after concert artists and lieder singers. Her opera, oratorio and recital recordings have been released on CD and DVD by such labels as Decca, Teldec and Naxos.
Of THE sONGBIRDs ByE-ByE DIVIsMO
Werner Van Mechelen
(Brabants Dagblad, September 4, 1989)
During the the 36th IVC event General manager Marijke Roef continued her charm offensive with press and audience alike. She brought novelties in play and restored old values, such as the crucial role of the host families. More than just free hosting these had a positive influence on candidates when it came to taking their mind away from nerves and stress. Vip arrangements for host families aimed at enlarging their numbers. Finalists were moreover given an allowance of € 500 each. Although Roef was convinced that the measures taken in recent years made the competition future proof, the 1989 edition saw the return of the Winners’ Gala on top of an orchestra finale. TROS TV once again aired a mixed program of interviews, backstage reportages and live performances. In terms of exposure the IVC had not only recaptured momentum, but actually surpassed it.
Roef also parted with most jurors of the first decades. Novel members in this edition were 1962 IVC winner Jules Bastin and 1971 winner Robert Holl. Local celebrity radio host Menno Feenstra brought a new dynamic. Brabants Dagblad duly noted that the preliminary rounds had gained importance from opening them to the public: “Whereas in the finals anyone already knows what to expect, the preliminary rounds are a veritable tombola. One doesn’t know what surprise the next singer will bring. Is it the new Jessye Norman? Is it aaathe next star tenor after all? There are performances that make you forget that you are watching a contest, such as GDR tenor Matthias Bleidorn’s appearance. One of seventeen candidates in the oratorio category he sang ‘Geduld’ from Bach’s Mattheus Passion with such profound religious depth and ‘Waft her Angels’ from Händel’s Jeptha with such brilliance that the bell for the next candidate seemed out of place. At times the Jury was listening so fascinated that they forgot tot make notes, such as with the German soprano Marie–Karb Bienefeld, who performed Hammerschmidt’s ‘O bone Jesu’ in a manner that took one’s breath away.”
For accompanist Gérard van Blerck the 36 th IVC was the 32nd one since 1954 in which he accompanied candidates! Van Blerck: “At
the time actually accompanied the current jurors Jules Bastin and Robert Holl.” Van Blerck thought that the most important improvement in modern times was the absence of former “divismo”: “No more uncalled for long held notes and effect for effect’s sake, volume for volume. Singers of today have better education, their understanding of texts and style is far more advanced than it was decades ago. […] In the old days it could happen that you met he occasional untrained singer who just did the lights in some theater and thought to give it a go himself! Such things are unthinkable today.”
wERNER VAN M ECHELEN
“Belgian bass-baritone Werner Van Mechelen received the Second Prize for his song interpretations. Based on his semi finals appearance, this was wholly justified, although he seemed a bit over concentrated during the finals where he paid so much attention to presentation and details that the overall line was sometimes in jeopardy.” (NRC, September 4, 1989)
In terms of winners, the 1980s closed crescendo with concert and Lieder specialist Yvi Jänicke and the great Belgian bass-baritone Werner van Mechelen.
While German tenor Matthias Bleidorn and Belgian bass-baritone Werner Van Mechelen equally deserve the remaining space here, the charming Korean coloratura and audience favourite Yung-Min Lee could challenge Georgi Mirostranoff’s election into our Quote section here – it is precisely their current intractability that makes one curious about their voices. Van Mechelen (b. 1961, Turnhout) became the predominant bass-baritone of his generation in Belgium and a great champion of the phenomenal works of its national composer Peter Benoit. For that alone he deserves a monument. Even recently, in the middle of the covid pandemic, he salvaged the taxing Wagnerian opera Children of the Sea by Lodewijck Mortelmans.
“Yvi Jänicke ruled unchallenged in the Song category. She was the only one who grew stronger and stronger further into the competition.”
“Yvi Jänicke can keep an audience’s attention.” (De Volkskrant, September 4, 1989)
“The high quality of this year’s IVC was further confirmed in the song category, where 32-year-old Japanese baritone Katsunori Kono won a First Prize with his exceptionally beautiful interpretation of German songs by Brahms, Holl, Mahler, Schubert and Wolf.”
(AD, September 3, 1990)
“Kono went straight to the heart of one of Brahms’s ‘Vier ernste Gesange’ and offered overwhelming artistry.” (Haagsche Courant, September 3, 1990)
A 2002 recording of Schubert’s Schwanengesang for Nami Records serves as a wonderful memento of Katsunori’s artistry.
sOVIET INVAsION IN DEN BOsCH THE BRIGHT fUTURE Of sINGING
The turbulent events around the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 resulted in zero Soviet participants at that year’s IVC. Thereafter, Soviet glasnost resulted in an “invasion” of no fewer than 19 Soviet singers on a total of 100 accepted participants for the 1990 event.
Given the fact that these 100 were divided over 25 nationalities, the Soviet contingent, largely made up of singers from the Baltic region, was truly prominent. To host them and their entourage required no less than 30 extra host families and ten interpreters. Six of the Soviet singers made it to the finals, with power baritone Oleg Malikov (b. 1961, Kemerovo, USSR) emerging as the spectacular winner.
While general manager Marijke Roef continued to rejuvenate the organization, including the board of directors, the new president of the Jury, radio host Menno Feenstra, communicated interesting viewpoints to the press on what he believed was going on in opera, Lieder and oratorio. The general idea was that singing was in crisis and that there were no more voices as the famous ones from days long gone. Feenstra opposed this idea in an interview with Het Parool: “I believe that there are far more fantastic voices in young singers today than there have ever been before. Life and education have greatly improved in forty years. The real problem is that talent is now hunted down at an age so tender that they aren’t getting the time to develop their voices in a natural way. Participants in the IVC are young by nature. It should be a public event, not an event where most seats are taken by scouts and impresarios that want to make an easy buck on some promising voice.”
C ON s IDERING THAT …
On parting with voice categories in favour of genre categories Feenstra said: “Today is a time where specialization is trending. The
truth also demands to admit that no matter how good any given singer was, audience and jurors alike eventually usually picked the best opera singer. […] Then it should also be pointed out that most basses today are actually baritones and there are hardly any real altos around. A genuine alto doesn’t have to go to any competition, she can go straight to a famous impresario. […] Admittedly, opera was, is and will likely remain trending, also among participants. Not because the music is better, but because it is currently impossible to earn a living in Lieder. That also goes for oratorio, which was equal here to opera in the 1950s. There’s a paradox though, since both Lieder and oratorio are more widely performed now than forty years ago. It’s just that opera became predominant. That’s where the top wages are currently paid and where the press is to be found.”
O LEG M ALI k OV
“Within three seconds of beginning to sing, the sensational baritone Oleg Malikov established himself as the audience favourite, thanks to an all-surpassing comic talent, a natural presentation and enormous volume. I laughed my lungs out over ‘Largo al factotum.’” (Het Parool, August 31, 1990)
Oleg Malikov’s popularity with jury, audience and press alike can be summarized as the charm of a rich voice in a friendly Russian face. He was nothing short of a sensation and insiders who were there still treasure the memory to date. Malikov subsequently had a fantastic career in Russia in roles that cantered around Escamillo, Germont, Onegin and the principal roles in Queen of spades, Iolanta, The Tsar’s Bride and War and Peace Along with a select number of operatic broadcasts his voice is perhaps best preserved in a 1998 CD recording of Russian romances.
“After her Oratorio Encouragement Prize of 1990, Russian mezzosoprano Irina Romischevskaya had the chance to compete again, this time in opera. She conquered everyone’s heart with Vivaldi and Rimsky-Korsakov.” (Adriaan Hager, Trouw, September 2, 1991)
“The enchanting mezzosoprano Irina Romishevskaya reached her top form only in the Gala Concert, prompting people to say that she might have deserved a First Prize after all.” (Wil Derkse, Brabants Dagblad September 5, 1991)
THE “DARk AGE” MONEy, MONEy, MONEy
Since 1987 Marijke Roef’s radical changes in structure along with the rejuvenation of jury and organization brought the IVC an exciting three years interbellum that was marked by hope. Although Dutch television now telecasted the finals, a national Dutch newspaper duly noted that the competition seemed far more famous abroad than within the Netherlands. Following the Gala Concert the newspaper reporter concluded that Roef could finally get some well deserved sleep. The competition had been a major success, but the event had been a roller coaster following the coup against Gorbachov in Russia, which at the very last minute prevented the 8 Russian candidates to get to Den Bosch. For the first time ever Dutch newspapers singled out some female VIPs for their colourful dresses rather than zooming in on the vocalists. The 1990s saw an unprecedented makeover of society and In line with that, they rank among the IVC’s history as “The dark age.”
Petra Lang Ralf LukasP ETRA L ANG
“A pleasant surprise in the Opera category was German mezzo- soprano Petra Lang, who used the finals to rise to a level that left her competitor Irina Romischevskaya defenceless. [...] Mozart’s concert aria KV 505 was not just sung perfectly and virtuosically; it also demonstrated a true musical personality. A personality that revealed itself even more strongly in an aria by Berlioz.” (Brabants Dagblad, September 2, 1991)
While this notion is not entirely correct, it should be acknowledged that the changes made in recent years did not bring the desired result: a more balanced outcome. Had bassos and altos previously proven near extinct, now first prizes in Lied and oratorio were frequently not awarded for apparent lack of talent and interest. The 1991 event resulted in an all time low in terms of press attendance. Thirteen out of 80 participants made it to the finals. As if to force the hand of fate and kick-start Lieder and oratorio, only four of them competed in opera, seven in song and two in oratorio: German bass-baritone Ralf Lukas and Polish counter-tenor Artur Stefanowicz. They respectively won first and second prize in their discipline, with Lukas continuing to make a fine career in… opera. In fact, he was already a member of the German opera of Berlin when he entered the IVC competition in the oratorio arena.
R AL f L U k A s
“Ralf Lukas’s first prize in Oratorio and his winning the Great Prize of the City were as predictable as they were justified. His name had already been buzzed around during the preliminaries when the NOS broadcasting station already signed him up.” Brabants Dagblad, September 2, 1991)
“German bass-baritone Ralf Lukas stole the limelight. What conviction! What flexibily and what a nose for atmosphere. He jumped effortlessly from Papageno into the religious solemnity of Brahms, and from there back to Mozart’s Figaro.” (Brabants Dagblad September 5, 1991)
The IVC victory of German baritone Ralf Lukas (b. 1959, Bayreuth) was hardly a surprise outcome. Guest appearances took him to La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera, Glyndebourne and the Salzburg Easter and Summer Festivals as well as Tokyo. He made his Bayreuth Festival debut in 2006.
German mezzo-soprano Petra Lang (b. 29 November, 1962, Frankfurt am Main) came to Den Bosch “armed to the teeth.” She had attended master classes with Brigitte Fassbaender, Hans Hotter, Dietrich FischerDieskau and Peter Schreier, studied Wagner with Astrid Varnay and arrived with stage experience from the Basel and Nuremberg Operas. In the 1994–95 season she permanently turned to Wagner and became a freelance superstar, appearing in all the great opera houses of the world. To date she still ranks among the leading Wagner divas of our time, which marks a watershed line in this book pre 1991 one and after: onwards most singers are still active at the time of writing this book. Some of them still among the leading artists in their vocal categories.
M ONE y, MONE y, MONE y
Leidsche Courant noted that three of the four encouragement prizes weren’t given and pondered on the possibility that the prize money for them was too low for singers to put much effort into aiming at those categories. We cannot say if money played a part in that in this context, since it is not clear how anyone could aim for a talent prize other than by being a talent. We can however admit to the critic’s observation that money started playing a more important role in opera and in competitions than ever before. The recession of the 1980s had put money and individualism at the centre of anyone’s lives, not just in music. In 1954 the local competition was a fun experience. In the 1990s any given singer weighed costs and time spend on international competitions against possible benefits: the prestige of jury, what contacts and prize money could be made there? With fully state sponsored trips ending in the process of the demolition of the Iron Curtain, the large number of East-European winners were something of the past.
“Since completely objective juries do not exist, we call upon the aid of mathematics to approach the maximum degree of objectivity. It is really very simple: we count the numbers and come up with the totals.
Below a certain total for specific prizes such as the First, Second and Great Prize, that prize can’t be awarded.” (1971 IVC
First Prize winner and 1992 IVC juror Horiana Brănişteanu on the meager harvest of awards this year, Brabants Dagblad, August 31, 1992)
“As a mesmerizing Snow White she stood on the stage, singing a Mahler song about a Schneeweisse Hand: one could hear a needle drop. Her husband tenor Harrie van der Plas, who failed his own attempt truly could console himself with his wife’s achievement in arias from Rossini and Puccini. After the ovation died down, the person next to me sighed: ‘This made my day! What else can one do to win a vocal competition?’”
(De Limburger August 25, 1992).
The fresh breeze caused by Marijke Roef in the past four years was cut short when she made way for Jolantha Polomski in 1992. Polomski started under siege of severe budget cuts when the National Arts Commission judged vocal competitions “irrelevant.” With that Polomski had her task carved out for her: to complete Roef’s plans and put the IVC more prominently on the Dutch musical map, since fame abroad did not pay the bills in Den Bosch. She left no doubt about her viewpoint: “Competitions are very important to the development of your singers. Here they can step out of the shades. The competitive element prepares them for the real world ahead of them. The audience loves this mixture of angst, hope and wonderful discoveries.”
P olomski’s rescue mission had success: the budget cuts were eventually withdrawn. This did not bring peace for long though, since immediately thereafter discussions followed about the IVC leaving the city of Den Bosch in favour of Eindhoven, where the Brabant Orchestra (the IVC’s house orchestra) had already relocated to. Seizing upon a possible leave the largest cities in the country also started flirting with the prestigious International competition as alternative locations. The IVC board vehemently opposed these “coupes”, while also using them to make a strong call for much more local financing. Perhaps even an IVC Concert Hall was needed to keep the IVC in Den Bosch!
M URPH y’s LA w Polomski hammered on fortifying the international standing of the IVC and did so by lining it with the Aix-en-Provence competition in France, where this year’s winners were allowed into the finals the next year. The link with Aix resulted in the IVC winners being given straight auditions at the Lyon Opera house. She wanted to realize similar arrangements in a number of countries. Nonetheless, the IVC’s house orchestra, the Brabant Orchestra, had no time to accompany the winners at the IVC Gala Concert 1992, because they had to play at the opening of the new Concert Hall in… Eindhoven! In spite of such setbacks Polomski achieved her goal of putting the IVC on the national map by realizing a staggering number of publications. Unfortunately, the 1992 edition was unanimously considered the weakest competition in the IVC’s entire history, a judgement proven right by time. To have that misfortune colliding with Polomski’s considerable efforts to prove the value and protect the future of the IVC was a clear case of Murphy’s Law.
Romanian-Dutch soprano Ruxandra van der Plas–Vodá of the Maastricht Conservatory reaped a standing ovation from the audience in her first round performance of the mentioned Mahler song and yet, competitions aren’t won in round one. Some peak too early, others cannot handle the pressure, others gradually rise to the challenge. The press jumped der Plas–Vodá and her husband, but neither made the finals (they did achieve noteworthy careers in the Netherlands). In the end the local audience remembers the 1992 edition of the IVC as the event in which the star of the other local favourite of the Maastricht Conservatory started to shine like a gentle diamond: Angelina Ruzzafante.
A NGELINA R UZZA f ANTE
“Angelina sang with crystal clarity and perfect intonation, very controlled and without the slightest sign of nerves.” (Brabants Dagblad, August 31, 1992)
“I believe I still have a lot to learn, and I have not yet arrived where I want to be.” (Angelina Ruzzafante to Brabants Dagblad, August 31, 1992)
Dutch soprano Angelina Ruzzafante (b. 1965) completed her vocal studies at the Maastricht Academy with honours and trained with Francisco Araiza, Mya Besselink, Ingeborg Hallstein and Nelly Miricioù She carved her name into a very select list of Dutch First Prize winners in ’s-Hertogenbosch that began in 1954 with Annette de la Bije. Since the 2009–10 season Ruzzafante has been a member of the Anhaltisches Theater Dessau, where she progressed from Liù in Turandot to Norma. Important was her creation of Massenet’s Esclarmonde in Germany. She has made several CD recordings, including such fascinating repertoire oddities as Wolf-Ferrari’s Das Himmelskleid and Weber’s Silvana. She has recorded a solo album with the Limburg Symphony Orchestra.
Ew A wOLA k
“Although she still has much to learn, she was one of the few participants that knew how to make music.” (Trouw, August 31, 1992)
Although Polish alto Ewa Wolak (b. 1968) won just the smallest encouragement prize, she eventually achieved perhaps the most impressive career of all 1992 participants. Since 1998 she has been engaged at the Badisches Staattsheater Karlsruhe, where she sang all the great roles in her Fach. She is truly famous for her Händel opera and oratorio roles. Wolak has appeared at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Komische Oper Berlin, as well as in Trieste and Montpellier. A frequent concert artist, Wolak has appeared in numerous festivals all over Europe.
“The jury surprised everyone with an Italian First Prize winner in the song category, the 28-year-old Leonardo De Lisi. Of course this ever smiling, curly-haired charmer sang even Schumann’s ‘Dichterliebe’ with operatic exuberance, yet he identified himself intensely with the words. Perhaps it wasn’t bad either to see the analytical, scientific approach to Schubert or Wolf replaced with a bit of southern bravura. He didn’t sing in great arcs, as Germans do, but raised much tension within parts of sentences.” (Ivo Postma, De Gelderlander, September 9, 1994)
After so many changes and so much heartfelt optimism, the 1992 competition had the exact opposite outcome of what Marijke Roef and Jolantha Polomski had aimed for in recent years: instead of an IVC concert Hall and more money the event finally became bi-annual. Which was done by a new management that had no less than two leaders: artistic director Bert van Mourik and commercial director Arthur Oostvogel. They cancelled the 1993 edition in favour of a master class that unexpectedly brought the IVC more positive publicity than any competition had seen before. The reason: Magda Olivero was engaged for it. Baritone Tom Krause was contracted as well, but Olivero’s presence brought a wholly new audience to Den Bosch. National and international opera fanatics flocked Olivero’s master classes, hoping for snippets of her singing. They were not disappointed.
The new artistic director presented the radical new “structure” as a big plus, a transformation from just a vocal competition to “an International Vocal Arts Festival.” In order to make that claim stand, the 40th Jubilee of the IVC was celebrated in 1993. Ironically that was the very year in which the competition was effectively cancelled! Nonetheless, a great celebratory gala was organized with famous winners of the past: Linda Finnie (1977), Thomas Mohr (1984) and Nelly Miricioiu (1979). The latter had meanwhile been hailed as Olivero’s successor in the famous “Matinee” concert series in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and started her permanent commitment to the IVC to date with her return to Den Bosch for this jubilee concert. However, the IVC ultimately separated the master classes from the competition and celebrated the true 40th IVC again in 1994, when stupendous winners such as Sophie Koch and Karina Gauvin washed away the bitter aftertaste of the 1992 event.
“When she walked onstage it was clear that hers was a genuine stage personality. Her arias from Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots and Rossini’s Barbiere were wholly individual creations. She can still win in coloratura, but even there she revealed a rare poetic level of expression.” (NRC, September 9, 1994)
French mezzo-soprano Sophie Koch (b. 1969, Versailles) studied with Jane Berbié at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris. Her IVC First Prize proved the upbeat to a global career that started at Covent Garden in 1998. She has meanwhile established herself as an audience favourite from Dresden to Vienna, Berlin, Milan, London and Paris. In 2013 she made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Charlotte in Werther opposite Jonas Kaufmann. Her concert appearances are too numerous to list here. She has recorded songs by Schubert, Wolf, Fauré, Chausson, Respighi, Schumann and Richard Strauss. On DVD the full glory of her voice and stage personality can be appreciated in Ariadne auf Naxos, Cos fan tutte, Der Rosenkavalier and Werther
A UDIENCE & P RE ss P RIZE f OR kARINA G AUVIN AND OANA -A NDRA U LIERIU
“No wonder she won the Audience Prize. So natural, so clear and transparent, technically perfect. Some songs would have moved even the most insensitive person to tears. would have given her First Prize.” (Wil Derkse, Brabants Dagblad September 9, 1994)
Although the jury did not award the Great Prize, the audience had the better ear when it gave Karina Gauvin (b. 1965, Repentigny, Quebec) Den Bosch’s first official Audience Prize. That prize was long overdue since it was first put on the table in the early 1960s. For inexplicable reasons the IVC board refused to give in to this call throughout the 1960s, ‘70s and 80s. The first time it was given the audience clearly had a fine ear. Ultimately, Opera News hailed Gauvin as a queen of baroque opera, with a personality big enough to dominate her elaborate wigs and costumes. On top of that, they added, hers was “a voice that sounds like a clear, refreshing and inexhaustible spring that darts and sparkles around any ornamental obstacle in its way.”
The 1994 IVC was truly one of those events that seemed to be overflowing with talent. Besides Koch, there were Sarah Connolly, James Oxley, Leonardo De Lisi, Olga Pasichnyk and Dutch music champion Irene Maessen. In the process, Romanian mezzo-soprano Oana-Andra Ulieriu won the first ever IVC Press Prize, another prize long overdue.
“Juror Grace Bumbry called the Spanishspeaking American alto Johnny Maldonado from the Bronx a born artist. His daring choice to become a male alto in the USA bore fruit: he has an even register, richness of color, melting pianissimi and trumpeting power when needed. Beautiful and intelligent in oratorio, dazzling coloratura, ringing high notes and tender lyricism in opera.”
(Paul Herruer, Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, September 21, 1996)
After the stunning success of the combination of a master class in the odd and the competition in the even year, artistic director Bert van Mourik lived up to the challenge when he recruited mezzo-legend Christa Ludwig and famous Rossini conductor/voice specialist Alberto Zedda for the 1995 master classes. Whereas previously the press had marvelled over each singly phrase sung by Olivero herself, all now marvelled over the quality of the master classes as such. Within the history of the IVC the 1990s rank as the golden decade of the master classes. These brought a new dynamic, a new audience and new prestige.
V an Mourik’s radical changes included engaging only singers for the jury: “During the previous edition there were also a conductor, a pianist and even an opera house manager, because I had hoped they would prove a bridge for some participants to the professional world. Effectively we had far more from Christa Ludwig’s master class last year. She used her lunch hours to phone opera managers and impresarios in order to introduce them to the talents she had discovered here. Please understand that the primary goal of the IVC is not just to hand out some prize money. We are going to guide winners for a full two years after their victories here. We are going to introduce them to impresarios, opera houses and o on.”
T HE IMPO ss IBLE DREAM
Participant numbers continued to rise and the 1994 edition had well over 200 applicants sending tapes. Those alone took a miracle to handle, but Van Mourik wanted more still: “Even those who do not make it through to the second round get evaluations. There are forums with all jurors attending. We teach them how to deal with and network among conductors, directors, designers, managers and so on. Each candidate that does not pass to the next round gets an individual workshop with one of the jurors. We film the entire competition and president of the jury Ruud van der Meer uses those tapes to discuss the achievements with each candidate.”
Van Mourik’s ambitions were as well intended as impossible! However, at the end of his bewildering interview with newspaper De Gelderlander the ambitions formulated proved just a compromise. Originally Van Mourik aimed to let the IVC go up in a year of musical events rather than just a master class and a competition alone. Van Mourik:
“Looking back at it, I was perhaps a shade too ambitious given the IVC’s budget. Nonetheless, I am currently talking with local institutions to make the original plan come true after all! plan to organize a series of concerts with winners of…” –At that point Van Mourik dropped the bomb: he was not thinking to organize concerts with IVC winners but with multiple winners of various international vocal competitions! Optimistic or naive, the smallest 1996 “prize” winner of just an honorary diploma ultimately proved that unfathomable dreams can come true after all: Barbara Hannigan.
B ARBARA H ANNIGAN
“Barbara Hannigan was given an Honorary Diploma for her vivid performance, which was cheered by the audience.” (Trouw, September 10, 1996)
Canadian(-Dutch) soprano Barbara Hannigan (b. 1971) quickly developed a zest for new music. She worked with the likes of Ligeti, Dutilleux, Benjamin, Dusapin, Abrahamsen, Andriessen, Stockhausen, Eötvös and Knussen and co-created many of their works. She created the roles of Saskia in Louis Andriessen’s Writing to Vermeer (1998), Gabrielle in Barry’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (2005), the title role in Hosokawa’s Matsukaze (2011) and Agnes in George Benjamin’s Written on Skin (2012, Aix-en-Provence) and sang in Dusapin’s Passion (2009). Her appearances as a dancer and singer with Sasha Waltz and Guests, made an extraordinary impression. Currently she conquers the world as soprano-conductor in, among others, Ligeti’s fantasmagoric “Mysteries of the Macabre.”
k y O k O sAITO
“The song prize was for Kyoko Saito. Her voice has a beautiful colour even at a pianissimo, and she has genuine Viennese wit, which was amply demonstrated in Richard Strauss’s ‘Schlechtes Wetter.’” (Eindhovens Dagblad , September 9, 1996)
Ulieriu and Ferri, only alto-mezzo Margriet van Reisen was able to interpret. In the song
gave a pianoaccompanied selection of heavy romantic
using not gestures,
AND NOw, THE END Is
differentiated with colors and shading.
has still to learn, but that is precisely what the Press Prize is there for.” (Roeland Hazendonk,
Although Bert van Mourik’s megalomaniac plans with the IVC were not realistic, it should be pointed out that if he had had the money to achieve his dreams, he would have created the greatest vocal competition in the world prior to Plácido Domingo’s Operalia In between, Van Mourik undeniably created a monumental achievement with the IVC master classes. For the 1997 master class he pulled another ace from his sleeve when he brought Renata Scotto to Den Bosch, once hailed as the successor of Maria Callas and meanwhile a living legend herself. Brabants Dagblad summarized Scotto’s achievement as follows: “Scotto sculpts as Michaelangelo.” If that was a stunt, so was bringing Stientje Engel to the 1998 jury, better know under her nom de guerre Cristina Deutekom.
but for the one that was expected to grow into something special.” (Brabants Dagblad September 9, 1994)
“The audience had no trouble choosing their winner: Oana-Andra. Following her arias by Rossini and Verdi she was loudly applauded.” (Trouw, September 8, 1998)
, September 7,
I ntriguingly, Deutekom had a very successful “rival” competition named after her, the Cristina Deutekom Concours (1988-2009, entirely focused on Dutch singers). A wonderful aspect of Van Mourik’s tenure was precisely his being guided by dreams rather than by limitations. Deutekom was easily the most famous post war Dutch soprano. She sang the most difficult repertoire from Mozart, Donizetti and Verdi to Puccini’s Turandot all over the globe. Having retired prematurely due to health problems in 1988 she brought the Concertgebouw down in 1986, when she made a surprise appearance at the age of 65 singing the Bolero from I vespri siciliani and Anna Elisa's aria Liebe, du Himmel auf Erden from Léhar’s Paganini. Van Mourik’s bewildering achievements with master classes and jurors such as Deutekom brought excitement and great press, but could not prevent that the IVC once again looked the end in the eye, when the Den Bosch City Council voted over ending its support, due to financial deficits in the city’s budget. Hardly any prizes were awarded in 1998 and with the general level judged below the level of the 1992 event, the end seemed near.
O ANA -A NDRA U LIERIU
“Romanian Oana-Andra Ulieriu seemed a bit intimidated by her 1994 Press Prize of ƒ7,500, which she said was three times her father’s annual salary. The Press Prize was not for the best finalist,
After receiving the IVC Press Prize in 1994, Romanian soprano OanaAndra Ulieriu (b. 1970) reaped a valuable second prize in 1998. In between she graduated from the Bucharest Conservatory, where she was in the class of 1969 IVC Great Prize winner Maria Slătinaru. Master classes with Mariana Nicolesco, Alberto Zedda, Daphne Evangelatos, Régine Crespin, Colin Davis and Carlo Cossutta paved the way to a Romanian career that sparked further performances in Venice, Frankfurt, Monte Carlo, Tokyo, Paris and Cologne. Two TV portraits were dedicated to her.
P IERRE yVE s P RUVOT
“Pruvot suggested that he may have a future as a lyrical baritone in the high romantic French repertoire.” (De Telegraaf September 7, 1998)
French baritone Pierre-Yves Pruvot’s remarkable career testifies to his commitment to the rediscovery of little-known works, from 17th-century pieces to contemporary scores. He became a renowned re-creator, recording many works heard for the first time in the modern era, including Bizet’s Le docteur miracle Cherubini’s Lodoïska, Kreutzer’s La mort d’Abel and J. C. Bach’s Amadis de Gaule. His discography includes concert works and songs of Bizet, Massenet, Saint-Saëns, Gounod, Thomas, Halévy, Franck, Lesueur, Grétry and Gossec. He created Debussy’s Rodrigue et Chimène for St. Petersburg, sang the title role in the first staged version of Milhaud’s Bolivar and appeared in Mascagni’s Iris in Kyoto under Nello Santi. For the past twenty years he and pianist Charles Bouisset have also explored the lesserknown song repertoire and recorded works by Poulenc, Sauguet, Ravel, Chabrier, Duparc, Ullmann, Martin, Haas and Guy Sacre. Many composers have dedicated compositions to him.
The panic caused by the proposed ending of the city’s support for the IVC triggered a series of local events with IVC winners, aiming to strengthen the competition’s relevance within the city. Another “fresh start” included so called National pre-Selection Rounds, with Dutch candidates being auditioned in three cities. Thus the IVC aimed to become a national event. The audition cities Hilversum, Maastricht and Enschede were host to the national broadcasting corporations and Dutch regional opera houses. This was all fine but directly copied from the Cristina Deutekom competition that had been extremely successful in the media by promoting Dutch singers. With its international focus the IVC could claim its relevance, but given the limited number of Dutch talent discovered there, the question was suddenly why Dutch tax payers should pay for it? In the process these preliminary Dutch rounds replaced the master classes, that were now dismissed as “élitarian.” The clash caused by this reality check lead to Bert van Maurik’s leave as artistic director. Commercial Director Arthur Oostvogel remained on his post to implement the changes. These were radical, but under the circumstances perhaps understandable.
A n important change saw the focus shifting from the traditional good heartedness (host families and after-care for first round singers who didn't make it to the second round) to money. The Great prize of the City was now € 20.000, a huge difference from the 1990s. This was clearly based on the notion that the 1990s had brought the lowest overall level of participants in the competition’s entire history. The jury that Van Mourik had previously drawn up from singers only was restored to its original mixture of singers (Grace Bumbry, Teresa Cahill, Jard van Nes), conductors (Roberto Benzi), opera managers (Marc Clémeur, Alexander Oliver, Hans-Dieter Roser and Huub van Dael, the latter presiding). The lot organized a press forum where they concluded that opera singers today were like plastic plates thrown away after brief use and that everything had been much better in their own heydays. Oostvogel secured the financial stability of the IVC in a very difficult period, but an artistic director or a visionary spokesman he was not. Some jurors had shockingly short-sighted notions of singing, artistic ambitions and the future of singing as such. The 1990s may have been the IVC’s dark ages, but the millennium edition of the IVC 2000 hit an all time low.
N E w PRIZE s
Hardly twelve years after the prizes shifted from vocal categories to opera, oratorio and Lied in 1988, that system was now also
abolished. Reality had learned that opera was not so easily balanced by just installing prizes for oratorio and Lieder that were often not given for lack of talent and/or participants. With the new prizes after the Great Prize of the City making no sense at all to press and audience alike, the main prizes were now suddenly the audience and the press prize! Thus Leo Hanekroot and Leo Riemens saw the crusade started in 1959 fulfilled after all (see 1959-1974). Riemens was no longer there to celebrate it, but Hanekroot was retired and alive and it must have given him some satisfaction.
V ERONICA A MARRE s
“The choice of Veronica Amarres was supported by the applause that she garnered. She has star potential. She actually managed to make you forget her third-rate green dress from days gone by. Her Sibelius and Rachmaninov are stunning. And she is able to sing Rossini just as well. How proud her guest family was in the auditorium. They’ve hosted singers for years, but never one who took home a prize!” (De Gelderlander, September 9, 2000)
Russian mezzo-soprano Veronica Amarres (b. 1971) counts Christa Ludwig, Grace Bumbry, Antonietta Stella among her teachers and took master classes with Renato Bruson, Fiorenza Cossotto, Gianni Raimondi and Evgeny Nesterenko. She gained international recognition as an opera singer. Following her victory in the Alfredo Kraus competition she became one of Kraus’s last partners in Werther and, as such, one of his youngest Charlottes.
“The most consistent singer in the tournament was Matjaž Robavs. His appearance in the semi finals was both exciting and touching, especially in ‘O du, mein holder Abendstern’ which he rendered marvellously in his warm, beautiful voice. He was not to blame for not being able to recreate this achievement in the finals, where he had to fight the very uneven accompaniment of the orchestra.” (Brabants Dagblad October 3, 2000)
Slovenian baritone Matjaž Robavs has performed at opera houses in Klagenfurt, Schwerin, Vienna (Volksoper), Ljubljana, Antwerp, Wexford and Frankfurt as well as on the concert stages in Europe, Japan and Canada. He has four solo recordings and sang the title role on Naxos’s recording of Weinberger’s Švanda dudák, the first recording of the opera in Czech.
“A place in the finals and a nomination for the Dutch Song Prize with a composition by Micha Hamel gave the experienced baritone Kyle Ketelsen wings. A Dutch Song Prize for an American whose knowledge of The Netherlands stops at windmills, tulips and wooden clogs? ‘I have studied the multitonal song endlessly,’ says Ketelsen, who normally excels in Verdi and Puccini.” (Brabants Dagblad, September 26, 2009)
After the disappointing Millennium event, the 2002 event ranks as one of the most spectacular competitions in the IVC’s history to date. Under yet another general manager, Marc Versteeg, the competition rose like a phoenix out of a turbulent past decade. The slogan was “Rejuvenation, accessibility, modernisation.” The competition was broadcast live by Dutch radio. Even the BBC was present. They witnessed the unprecedented triumph of Dutch soprano Lenneke Ruiten, who won nearly all prizes there were to win, five in total, awarded to her by the Dutch Prince, Constantijn of Orange.
foreign ministry and decided to remove both the Chinese and Taiwanese flag. A lame compromise, but China played a significant part in the IVC.
sOPRANO THUNDER AND T w O BOLT s O f BARITONE LIGHTNING
A part from limiting the number of participants to 32 (out of over a 100 applicants), Versteeg followed up on the older idea to turn the IVC into a local festival. There were master classes (by jurors Jard van Nes, Gail Gilmore and Rudolf Jansen), workshops, performances in between rounds, in other cities and at various moments of the year, including a student performance of Sondheim’s musical Into the woods. Versteeg: “I want this fantastic event to be integrated in the local and national culture. In June we had a hugely successful Opera Night in the Parliament Square in the Hague. Next year we will organize a European Musical Competition, accompanied by the Dutch Television Orchestra.”
A HOME RUN wAR Of THE fLAGs!
No less than thirteen sopranos dominated the six mezzo-sopranos and three bass-baritones in the semi-finals. Audience and press soon focused on soprano Lenneke Ruiten, who had traded her flute for studying voice just three years earlier. The lightning in the soprano onslaught seemingly came from American baritone Kyle Ketelsen. In between the press focussed on every imaginable aspect of the competition from master classes to gymnastics that kept singers in shape. Their nerves, hopes, fears, the jurors and the expectations of the audience, all came to pass in over a hundred Dutch press publications. The BBC made a fascinating documentary out of the event, that culminated in a thriller finale in which Lenneke Ruiten snatched away five of the seven prizes that were awarded. Lightning struck again when baritone Klemens Geyrhofer won the Margie Weideman Song Prize and Kyle Ketelsen remained with the Dutch Song Prize.
L ENNE k E R UITEN
“D UTCH ” s ONG
One of Versteeg’s novelties that outlasted his tenure at the IVC was the mandatory song especially composed for each competition by a Dutch composer. The choice fell on the very young composer Micha Hamel. Versteeg: “As we did not want to force foreign singers to sing in Dutch, the choice fell on a French text by Guillaume Apollinaire. The song, ‘Triptyque’, has the form of (a) monologue in between Lied and aria, which makes it very fitting.”
yOUNG jUR y M EMBER s P RIZE
The second novelty that would prove a lasting innovation was the instalment of a Young Jury Members Prize, intended to popularize the event also under young people. Jurors came from the conservatory in The Hague and were all between 16 to 22 years old.
wAR O f THE f LAG s
Provincial Den Bosch suddenly became the centre of the world, when the visiting Chinese cultural attaché saw a Taiwanese banner waving on the square before Theatre Parade, representing the Taiwanese candidate. The attaché thought the Chinese banner alone would serve both the Chinese and Taiwanese participant fine, and made a formal complaint. Versteeg said he would “study the request.” Versteeg consulted the Dutch
“So many prizes, it’s almost embarrassing ... it was my first vocal competition, although I’ve had a lot of experience in flute competitions. I didn't read the jurors’ biographies, because I was afraid their careers would intimidate me. am especially happy with the Young Jury Members Prize. It’s nice to see that in Den Bosch the audience is very mixed. I believe young people like classical music if they get the chance. Me for example – I’m a fanatic Jim Morrison fan; was rejected for the conservatory twice before finally made it! For now I will continue my studies, and then ... I aim as high as possible, so long as it doesn’t interfere with my personal happiness. I will not allow myself to get lost in this business.” (Lenneke Ruiten in Noordhollands Dagblad, October 1, 2002)
Lenneke Ruiten (b. 1977, Alkmaar) studied voice with Maria Rondèl and Meinard Kraak at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague and opera at the Bavarian Theatre Academy in Munich. Her IVC victory was the immediate payback of the Dutch preliminary rounds of 2001, which she participated in in Hilversum. She made her operatic debut as Susanna in Munich and achieved a fascinating career that took her along fantastic parts such as Zerbinetta and Ophélie in Hamlet Donna Anna and dozens more with outstanding conductors at the finest opera houses of Europe, including La Scala. She is currently one of the Netherland’s leading sopranos.
The combination of dramatic talent and her warm, flexible voice will have opera managers lining up at her door.”
(Marjolein Sengers, Brabants Dagblad, September 27, 2004)
“I think we have an Audience Prize winner.”
(Radio host of the live IVC finals broadcast upon the ovation for Iordăchescu’s performance of “Regnava nel silenzio” from Lucia di Lammermoor)
DIVA BEHAVIOUR wELCOME
“Brueggergosman is a superb winner, from her extravagant Jessye Norman–like appearance to her powerful voice and disarming performance. This complete artist overwhelmed the jury. ‘Im Abendrot’ was cherished. In longspun lines, and she remained glorious even in the orchestral postlude. Elisabeth’s prayer was a marvel of breath control and resignation; the Bolcom song came to life.” (Trouw, September 28, 2004)
The 2004 event marked the 50th anniversary since the IVC was founded in 1954. The press marvelled about the exceptional high level of candidates, which culminated in a finale with six singers that were all ready for the stage. Were there no tantrums? No budget problems? No organizational perils? No. Was the jury verdict disputed? No. Audience, press and even time would agree with first prize winner Maesha Brueggergossman and second prize winner Cora Burggraaf. The other prize winners all have outstanding careers to date. Entertaining in this IVC were various interviews with host families that had stories to tell…
I nge and Stef Reuzer hosted Maria Kovalowska, for whom they threw a big birthday party: “Look, for Dutch candidates such as last edition’s Lenneke Ruiten things are easy. They have a whole entourage around them. But these foreign sopranos have no one. They are all alone. Two years ago our candidate had to sing after a three days journey by bus. The organization should consider that. Its not fair!”
D IVA BEHAVIOUR w ELCOME
Since 1980 July and Gert Verhoeven hosted candidates from everywhere and nowhere, Japanese, Belgians and many EastEuropeans. They had their fair share of adventures with candidates that were as often easy going as very demanding. Regardless, they always tried to see the fun in it: “We once had a Hungarian soprano who didn’t want any food that was not on the right temperature. It didn’t help her much. She was eliminated in the first round.” When things clicked the opposite also happened: “We once had to host an accompanist from Romania, Peter Grossman. He was so friendly and had so many plans that when he managed to obtain some engagements with the radio here we hosted him for three weeks in a row.” No bad experiences then? “Well, we once had a Polish diva who wanted to arrange things
“Cora Burggraaf made a big impression with her easy mezzo-soprano voice, which only needs a little refinement in the upper register to be complete. In particular her semi finals rendition of Kurt Weill’s ‘Surabaya Johnny’ was of exceptional quality. This is a singer who deserves a place on the stage.” (Trouw, September 28, 2004)
with her German lover and asked us to lie to her husband if he called. We ultimately asked her to look for another host.”
Joyce and Ben van Thillart on the other hand had no problem to co-host the fiancé of American soprano Kimberley Justice: “A really nice chap. He felt completely at home with us. So much that when he left it turned out that he had eaten the entire fridge.”
T HE OTHER s
Apart from Maesha Brueggergosman and Cora Burggraaf other notable finalist were baritone Henk Neven (NL) and soprano Irina Iordăchescu (RO). Iordăchescu, daughter of 1963 winner Dan Iordăchescu, won both third prize and the prestigious audience prize. She is currently one of Romania’s leading sopranos. Ilse Eerens (BE) and finalist Claudia Couwenbergh (NL) have notable national careers.
I DOL s E ff ECT
Amidst all the euphoria a victorious IVC director Marc Versteeg told the press that the competition was “hot” again. He planned to give the audience more of what it craved: excitement, stars, tears and all that was now expected from television shows such as Idols. After more and more rounds had been opened to audience, Versteeg aimed to make the pre-rounds public as well, which guaranteed emotional audience involvement. Along with fortifying the fun factor, he aimed to further strengthen the aspect of advancing singers’ careers, as already reflected in this year’s Dutch Opera South Engagement prize for Cora Burggraaf.
“Romanian soprano Irina Iordăchescu [daughter of 1963 IVC Great Prize winner Dan Iordăchescu – RS] was the only true opera diva of the finals.
fINE wINNERs fAILED COMPETITION
“Tenor Joshua Ellicott sang heartrending way in the semi finals; he touched many in the auditorium with his singing of Schubert’s ‘Mondnacht.’” (Marjolein Sengers, Brabants Dagblad, September 19, 2006)
“The logical winner. He sang with ease in arias from Così fan tutte and The Rake’s Progress and was amazing in Schubert’s ‘Nacht und Träume.’ His exuberant rendition of Raaff’s song was nothing short of a revelation.” (Peter van der Lint, Trouw September 26, 2006)
Success is hard to achieve in an environment where it is measured on the spur of the moment. In terms of results the 2006 edition was an average year. Joshua Ellicott and Kinga Dobay are established singers to date; Robin Tritschler is a famous tenor who has recorded a significant number of CDs, among them some outstanding live recitals such as the one from Wigmore Hall. In line with Versteeg’s plans to increase the fun factor a lot of added activities were programmed around the competition. There were master classes by Christa Ludwig and pianist Rudolf Jansen. The orchestral finale was conducted by Daniele Callegari. There were additional events that aimed to strengthen the bond with the home audience, such as the concert by the Brabant Orchestra on September 19 including IVC1971 winner Robert Holl. In addition Versteeg delivered on his promise to open all rounds to the public including the risky preliminary rounds, where less prepared candidates weren’t yet eliminated. With prize money peeking at over € 40,000, the first prize being € 10,000, all seemed set for a continuation of the positive vibe of the 2004 edition. When subsequently only 48 out of 108 participants showed up in ‘s-Hertogenbosch for the 2006 edition, the organization was in shock. Even with Joshua Ellicott, Kinga Dobay and Robin Tritschler not being out of place in the long list of IVC winners, the IVC board was send back to the drawing table. A competition without participants simply had no future.
“Kinga Dobay easily won the hearts of the audience with an involving if not perfect rendition of Rossini’s ‘Non più mesta’ from Il barbiere di Siviglia.’” (Peter van der Lint, Trouw, September 29, 2006)
“Her Ariodante sounds like a string of carefully strung pearls, combining sensual dancing with a creative gift; she even glows in restrained, poetic moments.” (Roland Mayer, Augsburger Allgemeine, 2012)
A NE w DIRECTOR
After the unexpected outcome of the 2006 event Marc Versteeg made way for Annett Andriesen, who started her tenure in march 2007. The press and everyone else thought her to be the logical choice. She was already active in the IVC’s board of directors, had extensive production experience and an international career with a fitting network in the world of opera and song. She also taught at the Amsterdam Conservatory and her affinity with young talent was well known. Being a 1975 IVC encouragement prize winner herself, and having attended the event since the early 1960s, there was no one more qualified to look at the competition from the perspective of the participants.
As those before her, Andriesen had great plans for the imminent future, including making the IVC digital age proof. If she succeeded better in achieving her goals is a story that will unfold in the chapters covering the years until 2019. Even before rebuilding the IVC her first task was to secure the IVC’s bare future: was there still room for an international voice competition in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in a globalized musical world? Andriesen: “The city council threatened to end its support and there was much scepticism. People wondered if the enormous competition from all over the world, including television talent shows, hadn’t made us superfluous. That was the challenge I faced.”
“Robin Tritschler was the most special singer of the evening. His contributions breathed the atmosphere of a long-lost vocal culture that had no place for cheap effects and vulgar thrills. A singer to fall in love with at first sight!” (Peter van der Lint, Trouw September 29, 2006)
“Among song interpreters, Falko Hönisch, 30, distinguished himself. He was rewarded with the Song Prize and a special prize for the best interpretation of a specially composed Dutch song, ‘Querela pacis’ by Roel van Oosten. Hönisch is a singer for the ages; he excels in precise, bracing nuances, and he knows how to communicate a story through music.”
(Frits van der Waa, De Volkskrant, September 30, 2008)
THE yEAR THAT PRETTy yENDE CAME TO DEN BOsCH
“When he enters the stage he looks rather small, but once he opens his mouth Hansung Yoo turns into a giant. At the IVC he conquered all hearts with his unexpectedly mature and sonorous baritone and his articulation. Regardless of whether he sings arias by Rossini or Donizetti or a song by Brahms or Beethoven, his ability to release the music from the notes, his understanding of lyrics and his ability to colour make him a fantastic artist. We may be witnessing the birth of a star.” (De Volkskrant September 30, 2006)
“One promising talent is the South African nightingale Pretty Yende, who produced one immaculate high note after another.” (Brabants Dagblad September 29, 2008)
“I’ve rarely encountered anyone so disarmingly focused on what she wants as the extraordinary young soprano Pretty Yende, a Zulu from a remote South African township, and a spectacular voice which has spent the past year or two going round the European singing competitions and sweeping up the prizes like a Dyson deluxe. She will go straight to La Scala, Milan, to join their young artists programme.” (The Telegraph, October 30, 2009)
Arleen Auger Prize) impressed in a duo concert in Leeuwarden. The repertoire of the young baritone was stunning, with arias from Tannhäuser and Don Carlo. Jury, audience and critics alike welcomed Yoo as one of the IVC’s great promises. The Sri-Lankan soprano, a born actress, made a great career in her native country, where she is a celebrity to date. In the long run it was however Young Talent Prize winner and Zulu soprano Pretty Yende who became world famous. To date she is one of the leading lyric sopranos on the operatic Mount Olympus.
T HE y EAR O f THE “s OPRANO s”
With Annett Andriesen in charge of the IVC promotion became even more important than it had been before. In addition she set new boundaries for advancing careers of young singers and promoting them. Far more than just a successful Dutch mezzo and 1975 IVC encouragement prize winner Andriesen had also produced local operas and had great affinity with advancing and coaching talent. One of the things she did was reviving the 1956 idea to advance the careers of IVC winners through recordings. By 2008 streaming was still experimental, YouTube was in its infancy and an album CD counted for something. Hansung Yoo’s CD with Schumann’s “Dichterliebe” and songs by Duparc and Dong-Yin Kim is still a wonderful memento in the baritone’s treasure chest and a collector’s item among IVC fans.
A ndriesen also ventured to promote singers “live” and following the IVC all finalists went on tour through the Netherlands. South Korean baritone Hansung Yoo (23, winner of five prizes!) and the Sri-Lankan soprano Kishani Jaysinghir (30, winner of the
A new record was the participation of no less than 80 sopranos! The reporter of De Volkskrant noted more colourful details, such as the Russian countertenors, Asian mezzo “princesses” and baritones who looked like the Don Giovanni of your dreams. Most impressive: “The Polish bold headed twins, one competing as a baritone, the other as a male soprano.”
T HE NE w DIRECTOR
After the all time low in participants of 2006, a record number of participants showed up in 2008 and Andriesen believed that the IVC was on the rise again. Otherwise her credo was a(s) simple as ultimately effective: media, media, media. Including the internet: “You need to be online if you want to be visible. It’s also the most effective way to get a message out all over the globe.” She also organized pre-selection rounds in New York and Riga. Those who qualified there entered the IVC in the first round, thus limiting the risks that an expensive journey would result in elimination in the preliminary rounds. Andriesen: “All singers that were elected there ultimately arrived in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. We made sure these candidates felt welcome.”
“At competitions you look for ‘the special one,’ the one that can silence the audience by captivating them. There were some that had this X factor, beginning with Jeanine de Bique from Trinidad. The audience and I held our breath during her ‘Adieu, notre petite table’ from Manon. With the utmost musical intelligence and sensitivity, along with one of the most beautiful voices Imaginable, she made an unforgettable impression on me.” (Jordi Kooiman, Place de l’Opera, September 22, 2010)
VOCAL OLyMPICs POINTERs fOR CANDIDATEs
“The finals in Den Bosch were a veritable battle of sopranos, with Daniela Köhler deservedly running off with the Great Prize (€10,000). She has a huge voice that carries and radiates. She impressed with arias by Richard Strauss and Wagner, yet she proved surprised by her victory: ‘In the Ernst Haefliger Competition in Gstaad I was out in the first lap. Winning here in Den Bosch is really important to me. I take it as a sign that I am on the right track.’” (Trouw, September 28, 2010)
The 2010 edition of the IVC was a clear break-away from any previous edition. With the director Annett Andriesen the IVC had gained a real face. She did far more interviews than any of her predecessors had ever done and her network in the press proved overwhelming, to say the least. Emerging online platforms such as Place de l’Opera were given the same treatment as the traditional press, which resulted in overwhelming online presentation and a return of interest from the side of Dutch national television. The cosy event of 1954 suddenly emerged as the Vocal Olympics of the 21st century!
Dutch magazine Luister interviewed former winners alongside candidates of the 2008 competition. The winners gave advice, the new candidates expressed their hopes and fears. 1978 Winner Jard van Nes, in the years to come a staple in IVC juries and master classes, explained that upon winning prizes here or anywhere, chances would come: “But engagements are just like first rounds. What matters is if they ask you back. That is how you build a career. Talent is just one of many factors that matter. Your prime objective is the audience. You sing for them. Fill the hall with your eyes, give them the feeling that you are singing for them. Without communication no voice will come through.”
Those qualities came natural to 2004 second prize winner Cora
“I can imagine that being a juror can be a difficult job. Just imagine trying to evaluate both the small but extremely refined voice of Yun-Jeong Lee and the overpowering sound of Wagner-diva-in-the-making Köhler!” (Brabants Dagblad, September 27, 2010)
“Yun-Jeong Lee scored ovations before and after the break, with several bravos. Why? Her fantastic virtuosity in the coloratura passages andher light-hearted treatment of both text and role. A radiant top, and, if I am correct, a high G. Unbelievable!” (Place de l’Opera September 2010)
Burggraaf, who used the IVC to restart her career in the Netherlands after having spend some years in London: “I believe the only way to go about something as strange as a vocal competition is to have as much fun as you can. The best way to do that is by staying true to yourself, also in terms of repertoire. Sing what you like. Do not get lost in competition by aiming for things that aren’t good for you.”
fROM THE PARTICIPANT s’ s IDE
Compared with the advice given by successful former winners the participants expressed all the anxiety and hopes one can expect from participants. Against Burggraaf’s advice soprano Kitty de Geus said: “I participate with repertoire that I do not know very well because it challenges me more than what I studied at the conservatory.” In doing so she did follow the first part of Burggraaf’s advice, doing what pleased her for the fun of it: “I come here to learn. To try. To test myself.” Likewise, baritone Zhenhua Chang was not looking for a victory: “I want to become a good singer, not a famous singer. Here can test myself before an audience. I have a musical goal.” When asked if she thought she would win, DutchTurkish soprano Aylin Sezer ( as Nele in Jan van Gilse's Tijl) replied: “I hope so. I came here to win but I am aware that I am not the only one with that objective. respect the competition.”
“While reading numerous heated press attacks on various juries, I wondered how one could be so emotional and still come back to write about the IVC for decades? Then I was asked to be on the press jury myself, and Hannah Bradbury was unanimously chosen. She had a light, lovely, picture-perfect voice and a charming stage presence and was completely ready for the stage. We simply thought she was by far the best and had expected her to win all other prizes. I had a déjà vu experience …” (R.S. September 30, 2012)
ABOUT wALkING THE ExTRA MILE
The 2012 edition was an event with concerts, own opera productions (The song of Giacomo, a pastiche by IVC laureate Francis van Broekhuizen) and master classes (by Meinard Kraak and Nelly Miricioiu). The press noticed the positive vibe and started adding the word “glamourous” to their descriptions of the IVC. Not just the Dutch press; the leading German Opera magazines such as Opernwelt and Opernglas also brought feature articles. The spectacular Grand Finale with Orchestra conducted by the internationally renowned opera conductor David Parry was light years away from the days of Hein Jordans and André Rieu senior conducting improvised last minute concerts in repertoire they were not in the least bit familiar with. Trouw wrote that the new IVC was competitive with the world famous competitions in Cardiff and the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. Which was reflected in the heavy weight jury, including world famous singers such as Nelly Miricioiù, Sergei Leiferkus and Peter Schreier, presided by Ioan Holender, long time intendant of the Vienna State opera, now presiding over the Enescu Festival and scout for the Metropolitan Opera House in Europe.
Brabants Dagblad proved impressed by the entourage and wrote: “Grand Finale! One could tremble at the thought to participate in such a scary event. Yesterday this challenge was a fact for ten out of hundreds of candidates.” In the end it was Belorussian soprano Nadine Koutcher who peaked at the right moment, pairing an expressive coloratura voice with a mystical presentation: “She proved to be an exceptionally versatile coloratura soprano who made an unsurpassed impact with ‘Ou va la jeune Hindoue’ from Delibes’s Lakmé An inspired singer who can delve into the notes with an almost scary precision. Stage effects are not her weapons; hers is the power of the silence and the mystical rhythm in which she envelops her arias and songs”.
“The big surprise of the day was the powerful performance of the
Russian soprano and Netherlands resident Gulnara Shaffigullina. She attacked the arias of Verdi and Puccini with dazzling bravura. She presented Italian arias with a light Russian perfume – perhaps not everyone’s taste, but definitely charming. At the end of her aria from Giovanna d’Arco she stood there like a statue, her eyes piercing, her arm reaching out to God above, ready to fight her holy fight.” (Brabants Dagblad October 1, 2012)
POINTERs fROM NELLy MIRICIOIU OAN HOLENDER AND DAVID PARRy
I interviewed jurors Ioan Holender, Nelly Miricioiu and David Parry for Luister magazine in 2012, focussing on the advice they had for young singers. Holender, a baritone turned manager, juggled between two worlds: “Singers’ interests and those of managers aren’t always the same. Any offer brings money, but part of the game is knowing when its better to say no.” To which Parry added: “There are simply a lot of managers – even conductors, mea culpa – around who have no clue about voices.” Holender: “There is too much focus on stars. Yes, engaged Netrebko in Vienna, but no one becomes Netrebko without equally obsessive work ethics. There was simply no stopping her, but that can’t be the objective. Countless others also live for their art and are successful in their own right.” Miricioiù: “It took me a while to understand this myself. I once had a paying student from far away and at one point suggested her to look for a teacher in her own country. Some years later I saw her again, very happy in her local choir. It was only then that it dawned on me that people can actually be perfectly happy in the right choir. Any given young singer needs to find the right path for them. In the end they go their way alone, you don’t share the risks. It is a bit as with driving a car: young people do not see as much risks as experienced drivers. If you get an accident with your vocal chords the outcome is uncertain. Such accidents can’t always be fixed.” Parry closed the conversation on a positive note: “When you are young you have to look for chances. Many famous singers today had a break within OperaRara productions of rare operas. There’s much demand for untrodden repertoire. Those willing to walk the extra mile to study such repertoire expand their chances.”
"Angenent was especially proud of her audience prize: 'They have to buy tickets for my performances,’ she said on Monday morning. The other prizes that the soprano received were the OperaNederland Prize and the Brava Television Prize. This last honor already came to her after the semi finals when Brava viewers picked her as their favourite. She had to sacrifice a lot in order to achieve a good result in Den Bosch, says the soprano: ‘Minimizing alcohol comsumption and maximizing physical exercise.’” (Brabants
Dagblad September 15, 2014).
“From early childhood on I wanted to be on stage! I am someone who always looks for the spotlights.” (Deirdre Angenent to Edesche Concertzaal, 2016).
2014The 2014 jubilee of the 50th competition in 60 years since 1954 was the culmination point of the competition to date. Press coverage dwarfed memories of even the best years in the past. Attention from radio and television was immense and an unprecedented number of more than 200 participants enrolled, making necessary extensive pre-selections. The magic of the IVC was back within a glittering, new festival atmosphere. Impresarios from all over the world attended. Winning any given prize was no longer necessary to launch a career – a mere place in the finals filled agendas on the spot. With an impressive jury including Ioan Holender, famous impresario Eva Maria Wieser and world famous singers Dame Kiri te Kanawa, Anne Gjevang and Siegfried Jerusalem the Opera/Oratorio jury did not fall short of the occasion. The Lied Duo Jury included a.o. Elly Ameling, Siegfried Jerusalem, Meinard Kraak, Jard van Nes and Graham Johnson.
Attending all rounds it became crystal clear that managing an event involving hundreds of people from anywhere and nowhere was (and is) one hell of a job for the organisation. As a member of the press jury, I also experienced the competition from a juror’s perspective. Our vote for Canadian tenor Andrew Hadji was unanimous. He was obviously the best singer in the competition although that is not the only criterion to choose by. OperaNederland online for example wanted their prize to make a difference for Dutch singers. Among them they picked Deirdre Angenent. For the audience prize I voted for Angenent too. She paired a promising dramatic voice with already impressive stage presence. On the wings of her audience prize she sailed straight off to Germany, where she now sings demanding leading roles.
C OLORATURA IN TEAR s
One of the most touching experiences in this competition occurred during the semi finals, which included a stunning coloratura soprano who was nonetheless eliminated after Lakmé’s “Bell song.” As small and fragile as this coloratura was in size, she filled the hall with her eyes. Her facial expressions changed per word and at times her mouth seemed to expand into a fourth dimension. When I congratulated her afterwards she told me she felt insecure because she had been ill and had not touched her normal level. Next we knew she was eliminated and I suddenly had a sobbing coloratura
on my shoulder. She told me of the hardships and sacrifices she had made for her dream. In the months thereafter she posted Facebook essays on the unfairness of life where someone like her would always struggle and sacrifice just to sing, without much chance to secure even a minimum income or stability. She put her heart online on a platform that essentially thrives on good news and pics of pets, food & holidays. A few months later a friend from Lyrica Ghent called me in distress. Their Konstanze in Entführung aus dem Serail had fallen ill… called my coloratura-in-distress and on a week’s notice she came, sang and conquered Ghent ( see photo). A month further down the road Annett Andriesen secured her a part in a youth performance of Zauberflöte with the Dutch National Opera. Her Queen of the Night impressed to the point where she was hired by the Berlin Opera House. Ever since her Facebook page is studded with outrageous pictures of gala premieres in glittering dresses and champagne parties. Six years from her “Bell song” she is a star coloratura from Berlin to Nancy, Amsterdam and Brussels. The name of this Belgian soprano: Lisa Mostin. Some IVC winners of the past decades are proof that even the best voices don’t always find the right path. But a good voice in a frame that can communicate with an audience will always find the way, no matter what – said Ioan Holender.
I T POURED PRIZE s
The 2014 event saw prizes topping at a stunning total of fourteen. Nonetheless the main prizes became more clear: apart from the continued Great Prize of the City, there was now an opera prize, an oratorio prize and a Lied-Duo prize. In the latter Lieder singer were judged together with their own accompanists. That was a long way away from recent years in which it was expressly forbidden to bring your own accompanist. With the Lied-Duo competition and the opera/oratorio competition also divided in time, logistics were more manageable than in a format that included all disciplines simultaneously. It was a clear break from the past where keeping the disciplines together had been part of the mission, even though it was clear from the beginning that Lieder and opera/oratorio audiences weren’t exactly birds of the same feather. After 59 years of promoting interdisciplinary skills the IVC accepted that in a global reality it was best to let singers choose their own battlefield.
International Vocal Competition ’s-Hertogenbosch (ivc.nu)
Ivan van Kalmthout (general director)
Leonie de Bot (finance)
Ariane Kievits (direction assistant)
Edwin Thus (production manager)
Robin Theel (freelance press and social media manager)
Dick Bak (design, art direction)
René Seghers (Author, production, picture enhancement and colour restauration of all photographs)
• Ivan Ananjev (401IVCA.com chief programmer)
Gžegož Bukovskij (401IVCA.com assistant programmer)
Monica Chelariu (research assistant Romania)
Tatiana Kirillova (research assistant Russia)
Vivian Ngan (research assistant China)
Barbara Norton (English language editor)
Misha Ooteman (layout 2014)
Diana Starr (English language editor)
Diny Tecker (English language editor)
Ellen Verspeek (research assistant)
's-Hertogenbosch City Archives
Gerrit Verbeek (head archives)
Monique Ruzius-Brumman, Marijke Janssens (staff)
Published by: The International Vocal Competition 's-Hertogenbosch/401DutchDivas.nl with the generous support of
BKKC / Kunstloc Brabant Cultuurfonds Soetelieve Gemeente ‘s-Hertogenbosch Leye Fonds
Truus und Gerrit van Riemsdijk Stiftung Stichting Vrienden van het IVC /Friends of the IVC
Photos, recordings and information were provided by the following artists and/or their representants: Lise Arséguet, Malcolm Ball, Bolshoi Theater Moscow, Annette de la Bije, Cora Canne Meijer, Coby Dijk, Margaret Duckworth, Maria Fiselier, Peter Gijsbertsen, Albert and Elvira van Haasteren, Thomas Hampson, Pompeiu Hărăşteanu, Ioan Holender, Robert Holl, Falko Hönish/ Sigi Müller, Dan & Irina Iordăchescu, Francina de Man, Ruth McKechnie, Charles Minzter, Nelly Miricioiù Juliusz Multarzyński, Patrick Nin, Andrea Rost/ Zoltan Tombori, Brenda Quilling, Lenneke Ruiten, Maria Slătinaru, Michiel Spijkers/ Studio Moan, Oriel Sutherland/Corin Sutherland, Hansung Yoo,
IVC winner's photos: Frans Kuit/ Marc Bolsius/ Gérard Damoiseaux/ Marcel van den Berg/ Joep Lennarts/ Swinkels & Van Hees/ Vincent Nabbe
We have tried to establish the rights of all photos in the book, most of which are publicity shots given to us by the artists at one point in the span of 60 years time, or made in service of the IVC.
© text & photographic enhancements 2022 IVC/ René Seghers
None of the photographs or the content in this book can be used in commercial or non-commercial publication, online, or on social media without the written consent of the rights holders. All rights reserved.
In 2014 he was asked to write the IVC’s 50th anniversary’s jubilee book, which sprang from his personal collection on IVC related singers and jurors. The book reflected Seghers’s fascination with the stunning parade of vocal stars-to-be whose earliest steps in music can be traced in the IVC’s history.
When, in 2021, the IVC’s director Ivan van Kalmthout asked him to make an updated, digital version of the book, Seghers was enthusiastic: ‘While the limited edition Jubilee Book is a treasure on my bookshelves, the beautifully designed digital update will be accessible world wide and reach a far larger audience. This better serves the purpose of the book as explained in the prefaces and the introductory chapter: to keep the IVC’s incredible story alive. In digital format it will also be more easy to keep it up to date from one competition to the next. Many of the singers from the first 40 years of the IVC’s history have now faded into the past, with little information being available on them. This publication and the corresponding 401IVCA archives website gives their artistry back to the world of song. Last but not least this book is a a guide to young singers of the future to make the most of their talents!’