World-renowned in concert, opera and recital, José van Dam is one of today's most honored interpreters of the bass-baritone repertoire. He has been heard in the music capitals of Europe, the Americas and Japan, singing at opera houses and concert halls under the world's premier conductors.
In recent seasons, Mr. van Dam has sung celebratory performances of Don Quichotte at La Monnaie in Brussels as well as recitals and concerts in Paris and Brussels. He sang the title role in Simon Boccanegra with James Levine and the Boston Symphony, as well as a recital and La Damnation de Faust with the Boston Symphony and James Levine at Tanglewood, in Boston, at Carnegie Hall, and a tour with performances in Lucerne, Essen, Paris and London; the Berlioz Romeo et Juliette with Lorin Maazel at Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome; the Verdi Requiem with Daniele Gatti in Liège; Fra Melitone in La forza del destino in Brussels; Germont in La Traviata, the Father in Charpenter’s Louise, Prokofiev’s The Love For Three Oranges, and the Speaker in Die Zauberflöte, all at the Paris Opera; the title role in staged performances of Elijah at the Teatro Communale di Firenze and at the Saito Kinen Festival with Seiji Ozawa; the title role of Boris Godunov and Germont in La Traviata at La Monnaie in Brussels; Janacek’s From The House of the Dead at the Teatro Real in Madrid; Claudius in Hamlet at the Grand Theatre de Geneve; recitals in Bucharest, Frankfurt, Madrid, Peralada, and Vienna and concert appearances at the Concertgebouw, the Verbier Festival and elsewhere.
Born in Brussels, José van Dam entered the Brussels Conservatory at age 17, graduating a year later with first prizes in voice and opera performance. Within a few years he had won four prizes in competitions, including the Bel Canto Competition in Liège; Concours "Ecole des Vedettes" in Paris; Concours de la Chanson in Toulouse; and the International Music Competition in Geneva. He made his operatic debut in Liège as Don Basilio in Rossini's The Barber of Seville and subsequently performed the role of Escamillo in Bizet's Carmen at La Scala, Paris Opera, and Covent Garden. Conductor Lorin Maazel asked Mr. van Dam to record Ravel's L'Heure Espagnole for Deutsche Grammophon, subsequently inviting him to join the Deutsche Oper in Berlin where he sang his first leading roles.
The art of José van Dam can be heard on an extensive discography. Among his award-winning recordings are Gounod's Faust, Enescu's Oedipe, Massenet's Don Quichotte, and Pelléas et Mélisande with Claudio Abbado for Deutsche Grammophon. He can be heard as Figaro in The Marriage of Figaro, in Carmen and Die Meistersinger conducted by Sir Georg Solti, Berlioz' Romeo et Juliette with the Boston Symphony led by Seiji Ozawa, and Simon Boccanegra with Claudio Abbado and the Orchestra of La Scala. Other releases include Mozart's Così fan tutte and Strauss' Salome with the Vienna Philharmonic, and many recordings with Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic including Beethoven's Fidelio and Ninth Symphony, the Brahms German Requiem, Bruckner's Te Deum, Mozart's Requiem and Coronation Mass, Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, and Wagner's Parsifal. He is a two-time Grammy Award winner, in 1985 for his recording of Ravel songs with Pierre Boulez conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and in 1992, Best Opera Recording for Richard Strauss' Die Frau ohne Schatten.
Mr. van Dam has been honored in many countries around the world. His Majesty Albert II of Belgium named him a Baron, and the city of Berlin awarded him the title of "Kammersänger." For his many extraordinary interpretations in recordings and on stage, he has received the German Music Critics' Prize, Gold Medal of the Belgian Press, Grand Prix de l'Académie Française du Disque, the Orphée d'Or of the Académie Lyrique Française in 1980 and 1994, the European Critics' Prize for St. Francois d'Assise, and France's Diapason d'Or and Prix de la Nouvelle Académie du Disque. He was featured in the motion pictures The Music Teacher and Don Giovanni, conducted by Maazel, and his video recording of Schubert's Winterreise has been released by Disques Forlane.
-- Biography from Colbert Artists Management
-- Names which are links throughout this webpage refer to BD's interviews elsewhere on this website.
|MUSIC: CHICAGOANS PLAY 'FAUST'
By PETER G. DAVIS
Published: May 4, 1981 in The New York Times
The Chicago Symphony has traditionally brought blockbuster programs to New York for its annual Carnegie Hall visits, and this last week was no exception. After first weighing in with the Mahler Ninth and Bruckner Fourth symphonies, the Chicagoans and their conductor, Georg Solti, offered a spectacular grand finale Friday and Saturday nights, Berlioz's Romantic choral masterpiece ''The Damnation of Faust.'' The Chicago orchestra has just recorded the score for Decca/London and with a superior quartet of soloists: Frederica von Stade, Kenneth Riegel, Jose van Dam and Malcolm King. Margaret Hillis's superbly trained Chicago Symphony Chorus predictably added an impressive choral luster to the proceedings. (...)
Among the soloists Mr. van Dam as Mephistopheles stood out for the silken texture of his bass-baritone, his suave legato phrasing and his imaginative coloring of words - an elegant and immensely satisfying singer. Miss von Stade's lovely mezzo-soprano is also ideally suited to Marguerite, and both of her arias were spun out in a bewitching fashion. Mr. Riegel has the proper basic tenor metal for Faust, and if his voice is apt to turn coarse and unsteady on occasion, at least he sang with ardent conviction.
|After 1635, however, when the
Shogunate imposed its policy of national isolation, all existing sea
going ships were destroyed and it became illegal to build any more such
capable vessels. From about 1639, Japan was restricted to small,
fragile coastal boats that were deliberately designed to be practically
impossible to sail across great oceans. These vessels generally had no
proper navigation gear, only one mast, and were designed with square
sterns (which caught the wind and made them difficult to steer) and
large square stern-rudders that frequently snapped in heavy seas,
features that combined to make them especially vulnerable to rough
weather. Dismasted, they were quickly rendered helpless, and would
drift slowly eastwards until they encountered land.
What made the ships survivable was their cargoes. The tribute paid by Japan’s more distant provinces to the Emperor and the Shogun in Edo was generally remitted in rice, and – Japanese roads being frequently impassable in winter – that rice was generally sent by sea. That meant that the crew of a crippled vessel adrift on the Pacific often had an almost limitless supply of food to sustain them. Yes, scurvy remained a fatal problem, and the crew still required a good measure of luck to catch sufficient rainwater; there are many records of Japanese ships reaching the American coast apparently abandoned, and of boarding parties discovering the crew all dead. But in an equal number of cases at least a handful of sailors survived months of despair and privation, to begin extraordinary adventures.
-- By Mike Dash, from an article "The Shogun's Reluctant Ambassadors" on the website All Kinds of History.
This conversation was recorded in the studios of WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago on April 24, 1981. Portions were broadcast on WNIB in 1987, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, and 2000. This transcription was made in 2014, and posted on this website at the beginning of 2015. 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.