Soprano  Cristina  Deutekom

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


deutekom


Being in radio for most of my adult life, one of the things I would always do when interviewing guests is have them say their name.  Even when it was a common, easily pronounced name, I wanted to hear them say it.  Occasionally this would reveal a surprise, but most often I had been saying it correctly on the air.  A few even complimented me on rendering it so well!

In the case of Cristina Deutekom, I, along with most others, had been doing it wrong.  It's not DOY-teh-come, as in German, but closer to DE(r)-teh-come, where the
‘r’ is simply hinted.  Think of the French word for two, (which is deux), and say the first syllable that way.  That is very close, at least as I heard her say it to me!

By the time we spoke on the phone (on October 15 of 1986), she had already had a wonderful career.  Her performances around the world and on numerous recordings had captivated audiences and ensured her legacy.  Though still in her prime, it is sad to realize that those performances of Norma she was giving in San Diego would be her last in America, and her next series in Bilbao would be her unexpected farewell to the stage.

She only sang in Chicago once, a series of performances of Lucia at Lyric Opera of Chicago.  Also in the cast were Richard Tucker, Norman Mittelmann, and Paolo Washington.  Antonino Votto conducted, and the production from La Scala was directed by Sonja Frisell.  [See my Interview with Sonja Frisell.]

The following is edited from an uncredited article found elsewhere on the internet . . . . . .



Deutekom made a relatively late debut in 1963 at thirty-two, in Amsterdam, as the Queen of the Night.  Hers was no soubrette voice but a dramatic instrument, despite its extension up to the high F and beyond; proper preparation took extra time and patience. Once onstage, however, she was in demand in every opera house in the world for her extraordinary Queen, whose combined power, accuracy, and brilliance exceeded any in living memory. She recorded the role for Decca under Solti in I969, and later made a film of it with the Hamburg State Opera. [See my Interviews with Sir Georg Solti.] "The bright, deadly accurate staccatos glitter and peck: a predatory night-bird with a curiously sinister suggestion of clockwork" J. B. Steane wrote of her in The Grand Tradition. "It is the Queen of Night one has always wanted to hear." Other prodigious achievements notwithstanding, it is for her Queen that Deutekom has entered the operatic pantheon.

She also sang other Mozart roles (Donna Anna, Fiordiligi, Konstanze, Vitellia), and her very first commercial recording, featuring arias
from Enführung, Don Giovanni, and Zauberflöte, won the Grand Prix du Disque. The bel canto repertory and the early operas of Verdi also showed her full artistic expression. There is a paucity of great Dutch singers in history (besides Deutekom, only Gre Brouwenstijn gained international acceptance in opera in the last half century), but Deutekom overcame the disadvantage of a sound neither Italianate nor naturally warm by singing with exceptional warmth of feeling and authenticity of style. This and her capacity for bravura allowed her to reveal to late-twentieth-century audiences the vocal essence of certain early-nineteenth-century works with a freedom, security, and panache. Reviewing her Lombardi with the San Diego Opera, Martin Bernheimer wrote in I979 that "Cristina Deutekom is a dramatic coloratura - the real, rare thing. She may sound a bit strident on occasion, but the power, the flexibility, the stamina, and, yes, the finesse of her singing as Giselda mark her as a soprano with relatively few contemporary - or historical - peers."

The last years of Deutekom’s career were compromised by the effects of major illness, culminating in emergency open-heart surgery. She resumed singing rather soon following this trauma but found that, although the voice itself was not impaired, the requisite energy and stamina for a great role were no longer hers. Her final appearance in the United States was on November 2, 1986 as Bellini’s Norma, one of her most frequent roles, at San Diego, scene of a number of previous personal successes. Shortly thereafter she took leave of the stage altogether at an unscheduled farewell at Bilbao, in the title role of Jesús Guridi’s powerful 1920 lyric drama Amaya, sung in the original Basque. In retirement in Amsterdam, she takes more joy in teaching than do the vast majority of former divas, and she has maintained her own vocal health to the greatest extent possible. In 1990 she re-entered the recording studio, making Christmas with Cristina Deutekom, and she surprised everyone by singing in public in August 1996 (coincidentally the month of her sixty-fifth birthday). The occasion was an Amsterdam gala performance during which she performed the Bolero from I vespri siciliani and a Viennese operetta aria. The Dutch audience, aware that she had survived a second emergency heart operation (in 1994), rose in acclaim after each selection. In January I997 she ventured to commit to disc the principal scenes of Donizetti’s three English queens (the heroines of Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda, and Roberto Devereux), roles that had not been part of her large stage repertory.



While being historically prepared for all my interviews, I admit to not knowing a thing about her illnesses at the time we spoke.  Most personal and health-related details are not things I publicize, and are also not items I search out for my own amusement.  People whom I meet often ask me about such tidbits, but I always decline discussion of them, even on the rare occasion when I know exactly what is being asked.  However, since the circumstances related in the last paragraph above impacted her career in such a decisive way, I felt they should be included in the introduction to this chat.

Her English was good, though she often mangled words or syntax.  However, what she was driving at was always understandable, and I have smoothed it out to reflect what she was attempting to say.

Here is most of what was said at that time . . . . . . . . .


Bruce Duffie:    Let’s start with the role that you’re singing currently.  Tell me a little bit about Norma.

Cristina Deutekom:    What do you like to know?  What is attracting me to in these parts?

BD:    What attracts you to the part, and then what is the secret of singing it well?

CD:    Ah!  [Much laughter]  I don’t know what the secret is.  It’s very difficult to sing bel canto because the style is so difficult.  You have such long lines to sing.  I think that’s the major demand with this kind of role, this kind of music.  I like the part because Norma is a warm character, a warm person.  That’s the style; that’s the kind of character I like.

deutekomBD:    Is there enough in the character to make it more than just a concert?

CD:    Oh yes.  There’s a real warm feeling.  In first place, she’s a mother.  That’s what I like, that she really makes up her mind, not selfishly, but thinking of the children.

BD:    Is it being done in two pieces or four?

CD:    We do have two intervals
after the first act and after the second duet with the mezzo-soprano, with Adalgisa.

BD:    Is that a good division of the opera to make it into three pieces?

CD:    Yes.  I’ve done it mostly that way.

BD:    Do you find that the audience responds more when they have that second interval, rather than just one in the middle?

CD:    I think the audience likes to have an intermission after this last duet with Adalgisa because it’s so beautiful that they like to talk about it, to exchange ideas about it, to ask each other how they liked it.  I think they will be relieved that they have an intermission to talk about it.

BD:    The opera Norma is about a 150 years old.  Do you think that it still speaks to women
and to men alsotoday in the 1980s?

CD:    Oh, yes!  I think it’s very actual.  It’s a situation that you can see clearly with your friends.  It’s a woman who has fears about her husband
leaving her for another woman.  They are not married but that doesn’t matter.  So that’s a normal situation today, isn’t it?  So I think people will recognize it.  Maybe they hated her for this situation but it’s a normal situation.  It’s a rather modern situation.  

BD:    Is Norma then a modern woman?

CD:    It’s not placed in modern times, but she is a normal-thinking woman.  That is what attracted me the most, that she is really normal-thinking.  She doesn’t go crazy and have a mad scene or that kind of thing.  She decided to die for the sake of her children.  Isn’t that nice?

BD:    [Taken aback]  It seems rather destructive, I’m afraid.

CD:    Do you think?  That’s the most important thing that chills the place.

BD:    She’s a strong woman then?

CD:    She’s a very strong woman, and I loved it.  I loved everything in the opera.  When this very strong character makes a decision, she makes up her mind and stays with it.  I loved it.  I liked it very much.

BD:    So you prefer playing a strong character to a weak character?

CD:    Yes, that’s what I like!  I’ve done a lot of the early Verdi parts, which are strong, like Macbeth and Nabucco.  I love that.

BD:    Tell me the differences in the vocal line between the bel canto operas of Bellini and Donizetti and the early Verdi operas.

CD:    The bel canto is the more difficult thing because you must be a good singer.  You must really know what to do with your breath.  Singing is all working with the breath, and you really must know and have a good technique.  For me it’s harder to sing Lieder; I think that’s the most difficult thing to do. 

BD:    You’ve sung a number of the early Verdi roles.  Did he write well for the voice?

CD:    Yes, I think so.  If you stay with him and also stick with the text, the words you have to use, then it’s not too difficult.

BD:    How do you go about deciding which roles you will sing and which roles you will not sing?

CD:    Well, sometimes you can make a mistake.  I sang, for example, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni and now I know I don’t like the part, so I stay away from it!

BD:    You don’t like the character or you don’t like the music?

CD:    Of course I like the music but I don’t like the character.  That’s the kind of woman I really don’t like as character.

BD:    [Surprised]  So you would drop the part because you don’t like the character?

CD:    Yes, I did!  I had concerts in Paris and luckily they let me out of it.  It is difficult to know how I would feel about it.

BD:    [With a gentle nudge]  Even the music of Mozart couldn’t redeem it?

CD:    No!  [Both laugh]

BD:    Tell me the secret of singing Mozart.

CD:    Well, I don’t know.  We in Holland start mostly with Mozart and Bach, and I have been told that if you know how to sing Mozart, you can sing everything.  Really that’s true.

BD:    If you know how to sing Mozart well?

CD:    Yes.

BD:    What are the particular joys of singing Mozart?

CD:    It’s pure music.  You must be honest!

BD:    You’re an honest singer?

CD:    Yes, I think so.

BD:    When you’re singing something, is it fun or do you find it a chore?

CD:    Yes, it’s fun.  It’s about eighty per cent of my life!

BD:    Do you ever feel that you’re a slave to the voice?

CD:    Of course!  It’s not only to the voice, it’s to the whole theater.  You never can do something in theater half way.  It doesn’t matter what.  Singing like I do, you must do that with hundred per cent.  And then it is not only you who is the slave of the theater, it’s your whole family.  If your family doesn’t like it, that’s the gamble.  You have to leave your family or the theater. 

BD:    You really can’t have both?

CD:    Only if the family is unified.  I have both because my husband goes to the theater. 

BD:    He doesn’t mind taking second place to you when you’re on stage?

CD:    I don’t know what that means ‘second place’.  When I’m not singing and I’m home, for me he’s ‘first one’, Number 1.  So he is not second place!  [Laughs]

BD:    Do you have children also?

CD:    I have a daughter.

BD:    Are you encouraging her to go into music, or are you encouraging her to stay away from music?

CD:    No.  We tried it, and she traveled a lot with me and so is signified as one of the family’s love!

BD:    Knowing the rigors of theatrical life, I wondered if you would try to do anything to keep her away from it?

CD:    She has said,
No, it’s not for me.  It’s too demanding and too much stress.  My nerves are not strong enough.  She loves theater, but not to do something in the theater as a career, as a life.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    When you go on the stage, are you portraying the character or do you actually become the character?

CD:    That’s a good question, but it’s very difficult to answer because if you are too much involved, then it’s very dangerous for the stage.  You must always have a limited emotion.  I learned at acting that the best way is to do it as though you are watching.  You must see yourself playing the part so you can make a character.  That’s the way I learned to do it.

deutekomBD:    So you separate yourself from it?

CD:    Yes.  You must, otherwise you get too much involved.  For example, you must plan how you think about what happens when you die.   In Trovatore, she dies in the last act.  So that’s our situation.  You always can have one life, so you must really imagine how to do that.  You must play the whole character that way, and think how she would feel.

BD:    Do you sing differently at all in the different-sized houses?  Does the size of the house make any difference to your vocal production?

CD:    No!   The only thing is that I’m a little bit afraid of small theatres.

BD:    [Surprised]  For small theatres?  Why?

CD:    Because they have mostly not the best acoustics.  But the big theaters, if they can’t hear you in the last row, then there’s something wrong with the theater, not with your voice.

BD:    So you just bring your technique and your projection to each theater?

CD:    Yes. 

BD:    You’ve been involved in a number of different productions.  Have there been some that you feel the producer has gone completely in the wrong direction?

CD:    Some were.  Today it’s the stage director who is very important. 

BD:    Is he too important?

CD:    For my point of view, yes.  When you are giving an opera in an opera house and only the name of the conductor and the stage director are posted outside, then something is wrong.   You can’t make opera without the composer and the singers!

BD:    I assume, though, that most of the productions you’ve been involved in have been happy collaborations?

CD:    Oh yes.  Otherwise I couldn’t do it.  I can’t work in operas at the theatres that are not good.  Then I rather stay home.

BD:    Do you also sing concerts?

CD:    Yes, a lot.

BD:    How do you divide your career between opera and concert?

CD:    I do operas, and then do some concerts, but we do have a new theatre in Amsterdam and we will do Semiramide as a concert.  So I combine it.

BD:    Do you think opera works well as concert?

CD:    I think so.  I’ve already done Norma as a concert in Frankfurt several years ago, and the audience loved it because it was the first time they ever heard Bellini.  Then we had the same thing in Hamburg, and also Masnadieri by Verdi, we did as a concert.  The audience loved it.

BD:    Is Masnadieri a good opera?

CD:    Um, well the story is a little bit vague, but it’s beautiful music.

BD:    I’m just wondering why it’s not better known.

CD:    It’s not easy to sing, so it’s not ever done.  You need a very good baritone, and it’s also very difficult for the soprano.

BD:    You’ve made the recording of other lesser-known Verdi operas...

CD:    Yes, Lombardi and Attila.

BD:    Do you enjoy making recordings?

CD:    Yes, but I prefer the theatre because normally we are very close together with the orchestra and the maestro.  That is what I like, but you don’t have that when making a record.

deutekomBD:    Are you pleased with the recordings you have made?

CD:    Oh, yes! 

BD:    You feel that opera being a theatrical experience works well on recordings? 

CD:    I must say I think that it’s not the right way to attract the people to the theatre, by only listening to the records.  That’s not the way it goes.  I know also that a lot of people who buy the records and later they hear live singers and are somehow disappointed.  That’s because the way they are making the records is not the way it is going on stage.  That’s completely different.

BD:    Are records too technically perfect?

CD:    Yes, yes.  It’s not the right thing.

BD:    Do you feel then you are competing against the recordings?

CD:    That’s right, yes!  [Both laugh]  Sometimes you have to explain to people who come to you and ask,
Why did you do this on the record? because they don’t have any idea.  They only buy records.

BD:    Should there be more communication with the audience?

CD:    Yes.

BD:    Do you feel opera works well on television.

CD:    I don’t like it, but maybe because when I watch the opera on the TV, I’m working so it’s not relaxing for me.  It’s not entertainment, it’s work for me.  So mostly I don’t watch it.

BD:    That brings me to one of my favorite questions.  Is opera art or is opera entertainment?

CD:    [Thinks for a moment]  If you say that entertainment is for you to bring the people in another world, to the theatre world, then opera is entertainment.  But I think art is the music, so it is both.

BD:    Then where’s the balance between art and entertainment? 

CD:    To answer that, one must know what for you is art.

BD:    For me it is the richness of the line, the emotion and everything.

CD:    Aha!  Oh, then it’s art!  [Both laugh]

BD:    Have you sung any operas in translation?

CD:    Yes, the Queen of the Night in English and in Italian!  Also the Abduction I’ve sung in Italian.  I didn’t like it.

BD:    Do you think opera works well in translation?

CD:    No, mostly not.  It is completely different.  Maybe not to the audience out there, but for me as a singer it’s completely different.

BD:    Are you using the supertitles there in San Diego?  [Note: When this interview was done, in 1986, supertitles were still a very new idea, and were not universal as they are today.]

CD:    They do.

BD:    Do you feel this is a good compromise?

CD:    Well, I’m not a normal public, so when I go to the theatre, a lot of things I understand.  Most things I know and I know what’s going on, so I don’t need it.  But maybe for someone who doesn’t know or don’t understand the words, and they don’t read the program before they left home, so maybe it’s useful.

BD:    What do you expect of the audience that comes to see you in the opera?

CD:    First of all, I hope to bring nice music to them so I can make them happy.  I can give them two or three hours to be in another world or another atmosphere there without thought.  Then they are taken and are so interested in what they have heard that they also try to live that way.  I spent fifteen years of my career singing in Italy, so when I make a mistake they knew immediately.

BD:    Do you feel a closer communication with the audience when you are singing the language they understand?

CD:    Yes, it’s possible.   I have done Norma in Seattle, and one night it was sung in Italian and one in English.  They had two completely different audiences.  I’m so used to the original language, so for me it’s not the question.

BD:    Is there any one role that you have done more than the others?

CD:    No, I don’t think so.  I have done Norma many, many times, and also Lucia and I Puritani.  I have sung a lot of Italian, and right here in San Diego I changed that.  I had the chance to sing a lot of composers other than Verdi and Puccini.  I sang Saint-Saëns Henry VIII.

BD:    Ah!  Was it fun to bring an opera to the stage that you didn’t know anything about?

CD:    Oh yes, it was beautiful!  I’m now doing a Spanish opera, and the composer is Gurudi.  We are not singing in Spanish but in Basque.  It’s really fun.  It’s nice though, and completely in different style of music.

BD:    Is this an opera or a zarzuela?

CD:    No, it’s an opera.  It doesn’t have any style of Zarzuela.  It’s very nice.  It’s the hundredth anniversary of his death, so it’s the occasion to bring out his opera.  It’s not been staged complete.  They have taken pieces out of it, and so they are now going to do the whole opera.

BD:    Have you sung any contemporary opera?

CD:    No, I never came further than a piece of Menotti, The Consul.  [See my Interviews with Gian Carlo Menotti.]  I did the scene where the girl goes to the embassy to get some papers to get out of the country.  This is the only thing I have sung.

BD:    Do you like the direction music is going today?

CD:    First of all, I don’t have very much time to go to the theatre and see modern music and new operas.  Some of them which I’ve seen, I like.  I think you have to curl into them, but it starts for young composers that we have.  They need to still compose, put it that way.

BD:    If a young composer came and said they wanted to write an opera for you, what advice would you give them?

CD:    That he speak with me and get to know me very well.  Otherwise it would be a disaster.  [Laughs]  A composer must know something also about voices.  You can’t stretch your voice.  That’s terrible.  You must be careful because it’s a very fragile instrument.

BD:    Many contemporary composers are asking the voice to do things that it was not designed to do?

CD:    If you compose pieces that the singers have only to make a sound like this [makes strange noises to demonstrate], it has nothing to do with singing as far as I am concerned.  They need to give the singer the opportunity to make nice sounds, nice line, melody.  That’s good for the voice.

BD:    Which of the old composers should the new composers study?

CD:    Maybe the old antique Italian composers who work very well for the voice.

BD:    Do you sing any music that is older than Mozart?  Any Handel or Monteverdi?

CD:    I have done in New York Alcina.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Tell me a bit about your most famous role, The Queen of the Night.  Is she a really evil character.

CD:    Of course.   She is!

BD:    Do you like playing an evil character?

CD:    Yes.  [Both laugh]  It’s really nice to do it.  Playing a good character is also a joy, but it must have a character.  I’ve done Gilda in Rigoletto, and it’s just too sweet.  This is what happens in La Bohème.  I will never be Mimì; I like more Musetta.  She’s more of a firebrand.  I think that’s much closer to my temper.

deutekomBD:    You are more of a firebrand in real life?

CD:    I don’t think so, but it’s something to play.  You have to invent it a bit.

BD:    But you must be a versatile artist to be able to play both Gilda and the Queen of the Night.

CD:    Yes, but to be honest, I am more the Queen of the Night.

BD:    Is there enough singing in the role of The Queen of the Night?

CD:    No.  That’s the main reason I won’t sing it.  Not that I don’t want to sing it, but I’m not very enthusiastic to sing it again.

BD:    Because there’s not enough to do?

CD:    No.  You are not involved.  You come up and sing your aria in the first act, and then you stay in the dressing room for two hours.  You can then sing the second aria, and that’s it!

BD:    To sing the second aria do you have to re-vocalize, or do you keep the voice warm all evening?

CD:    No, I would go and warm up a bit after the interval when they start again. 

BD:    How much vocalizing have you got to do before a performance?

CD:    It depends.  It’s not because of the voice, it’s just bringing myself in the right mood, and being ready physically.  It’s to bring up the muscles in the right position.  For example, an opera like Lucia will take a little bit longer than for an opera like I Lombardi or Nabucco.

BD:    Why?

CD:    To bring up the voice a little bit higher for the part of Lucia.  Her first entrance is immediately this big aria ‘Regnava nel silenzio’, and the voice must really be smooth.

BD:    You have to be smooth right away.  Are there some operas where you are get a little chance to warm up on stage before the big numbers?

CD:    Not very much.  Nabucco starts with a little, little trio.  I’m not saying that it’s an easy one, but you are at least not a soloist.  You have a little bit support by your colleagues.  In this Norma, she comes in with a big aria, but this is ‘Casta Diva’ which is awful to have to sing at the very beginning.

BD:    You walk on stage and are hit with the biggest thing in the opera!

CD:    It’s the most well known thing out of Norma.

BD:    Do you ever feel that singing an opera is like a contest?

CD:    Sometimes it is.

BD:    Is that good or bad.

CD:    It’s a little bit bad, but it shouldn’t be.

BD:    Let’s talk about the Rossini opera, Armida.

CD:    It’s one of the most difficult operas.  Let me tell you a secret!  The first time I did it was in Venice, and even at the rehearsal before the dress rehearsal
they call it a piano dress rehearsalI wasn’t sure that I was going to sing it.  I thought I couldn’t do it.

BD:    Why?

CD:    Because it is so difficult.  So I told my conductor that if tonight I can’t do it, then you must cancel it.  I won’t come to the dress rehearsal or the performances.  But after the rehearsal we knew I was going to do it.  It was really very difficult.  That’s the most difficult opera I have ever sung.

BD:    Even more difficult than Norma?

CD:    Oh, yes!

BD:    Is it a gratifying part to sing?

CD:    You mean, do I like to sing it?

BD:    Yes.

CD:    It’s hard to sing it.  When the overture started, it’s almost not recognizable as Rossini!  But it’s beautiful music.

BD:    Have you since done it again?

CD:    Yes, I’ve done it again in Bregenz.

BD:    Is that the place with the floating stage?

CD:    Yes, but this opera took place in the theatre in the city.  So it was a closed-in theatre.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Let us move to Mozart.  You sang Konstanze, so tell me about her!  She seems like another one of these women that is somewhat of a victim.

CD:    Yes, she is also not the strong kind of character, but I like mostly doing her because of the music.  There are four beautiful arias.  It’s a pity that all the arias are before the second intermission.  So in the last act is only this nice duet we have. 

BD:    In the last act we also get the big aria for the bass.

deutekomCD:    Yes!

BD:    Do you work better when you have more experienced or better colleagues?

CD:    I have to like my colleagues, and I like it when they like me!  [Laughs]  But if it’s not going to be that way, well that’s too bad.  

BD:    Are there some roles that you would like to sing but just don’t fit your voice?

CD:    There are some, yes.  I’ve learned to stay away from them.  My teacher told me to stay away from a part like La Fanciulla del West; never to sing that.   It was an old Italian coach, and she said,
If you like to ruin your voice, if you’d like to end your career and you really would like sing the part in La Fanciulla del West, go on.  It’ll be the end of your career!

BD:    What is it about that part that would kill a voice likes yours?

CD:    It’s the way it is written.

BD:    The tessitura?

CD:    Yes, the tessitura and also the sound of this big orchestra.

BD:    Have you ever worked with a scrim?

CD:    I did once, yes.  Some stage directors like to use them with the Lucia.

BD:    Does that hinder you?

CD:    It’s not nice.

BD:    Does it hinder your voice?

CD:    No.  It disturbs me because you really loose eye contact with the maestro.  The maestro can’t see us clearly if they look at you, and that’s disturbing you.

BD:    So then you are very conscious of the conductor all evening?

CD:    Oh, yes.  I won’t stare at him but I see him or his hand always where I’m standing.

BD:    Do you ever rely on prompter. 

CD:    No!   Not even on my colleagues either.  I know exactly what’s going on in the orchestra.  I think that’s the only way to do it, knowing what the orchestra plays.

BD:    Are you optimistic about the future of opera?

CD:    Some people say there’s no future, but I don’t agree with that.  I’m still working and so are all the theaters.  There are still newcomers who listen to us.

BD:    You’ve been involved in the theater for a number of years.  How have the voices changed?  Are the young voices today as good or better or worse than the voices when you were starting out?

CD:    I think that we did have more time.  We were ready to select the roles that we sang, and then we would wait.  I had a coach in Holland and he said,
Wait, wait.  Don’t start on the big parts. Start with smaller parts. That’s the way to save the voice and to have the possibility of later singing the whole evening.  I think that’s the way to start.  Today, when they do have a voice, they are not really educated already.  They have not fully learned and studied how to sing, but they think they must sing the big parts, and that’s not right.  You must be very careful with your figuring, not because of the voice, but mentally it’s a great responsibility.  When singers become frustrated, that’s very bad.  You must be happy to sing on stage, mentally and physically, because it’s really demanding something of you.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    What is next on the calendar for you?  [Note: This is what was discussed on October 15, 1986.  It is both eerie and sad to think that just two weeks after our conversation, her career would be finished in America, and the performances she mentions in Bilbao would be her last appearances anywhere... with the single exceptions as noted at the top of this webpage.]

deutekomCD:    After this I go call to Bilbao, and then back to Holland to do Semiramide.

BD:    Are you booked several years in advance for some things?

CD:    Now I have contracts until ’89 to do things in Holland.

BD:    Is that comforting to know that on a certain day, several years from now, that you will be singing such and such a part in a certain theater?

CD:    It’s very interesting because I have to do all new parts.  This year we will do Semiramide and next year,  Mosè, and in ’89 we will do Beatrice di Tenda.  It all fills my interests, and I have always concerts.  I don’t play along with just one evening the same program, but I put always something new in my program for my concerts.

BD:    Are you very careful to schedule enough time away from singing?

CD:    Yes, I do.  In the beginning you forget to plan time to travel.  You must have the time to go from one place to the other place, but we are careful now.

BD:    That comes with experience?

CD:    Yes.  [Laughs]

BD:    Do you set aside times when
you will not sing so you can be at home with your family?

CD:    Yes, we do.  We stay at a nice location, and have a vacation.

BD:    You are Dutch.  Who are the great Dutch composers?

CD:    Ah, good question.   We have some modern composers, but I really don’t know very much about them. 

BD:    [Surprised]  I would think that on a recital program you would include a few songs by new Dutch composers.

CD:    No, no.

BD:    Why not???

CD:    Because I’ve never heard a nice piece by Dutch composers!  They make music theater instead of opera.

BD:    And this is not for you?

CD:    No, no.  It’s not for me.

BD:    I wish you lots of luck with the Normas there in San Diego...

CD:    Thank you.

BD:    ...and lots of luck with everything.  Is there any chance you’ll be back in Chicago?

CD:    I hope so but it’s very hard because America is so big, and they have so many singers. So let’s wait and see.  You never know in this profession! 

BD:    Thank you for spending the time with me this evening.

CD:    Thank you, my pleasure.






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© 1987 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded on the telephone (she was in San Diego, I was in Chicago) on October 15, 1986.  Because the sound of the tape was so poor, instead of playing portions on the air, I related quotations from the interview during a broadcast on WNIB the following year, along with commercial recordings.  This transcription was made in 2014, and posted on this website at that time.  My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.

Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.