DISCOVERING VOICES the International Vocal Competition of ’s-Hertogenbosch by René Seghers


120 pp including bonus CD with excerpts of  the Gala concerts 1954-2012
The book is available as a welcoming gift for a ‘IVC Friends donation’ of 50 Euros

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This year (2014) the International Vocal Competition ‘s-Hertogenbosch celebrated its golden jubilee of 50 competitions in 60 years since 1954 (the IVC became bi-annually in 1992). The occasion was celebrated with a jubilee book, which surely is the most spectacular jubilee book on any vocal competition ever published. Most of such books, among them the 40 years jubilee of the IVC, look back more to general topics and organisatory issues, which are easy to reproduce with a mere handful of interviews. Not so with this Golden Jubilee book, which was the result of dumb luck, short communication lines (author René Seghers and Annett Andriesen having a coffee on a terrace and Andriesen  embracing an impossible proposal by Seghers on the spot), and the iron discipline of the author as a researcher.

A big extra in the book is the unique jubilee CD which for the first time ever brings highlights of the IVC Closing Galas of the winners 1954-2012, recordings that till recently were considered lost and include” the live recording debuts of Thomas Hampson, Ileana Cotrubas amongst many others.” (Seghers)

The concept of the book is simple:

*An intro that introduces the concept in line with the 60 years of history of the IVC.

* Fifty spreads with on the left page all 50 complete final results including the smallest prizes and even the honorary diplomas. On the top of the left page you will find the winners’ group photo of that year. In the middle you find an intriguing quote regarding one of the participants (not necessarily a winner, since some quotes shed fascinating lights on how the press failed to recognize talent such as Michele Molese in 1958), always with a unique photograph of the subject. On the right page there are usually two biographies (sometimes only one), always with a unique photograph on top (often taken from the pictures provided at the time by the singers). These portraits in quotes and biographies add up to nearly 150, all but two of singers that had significant careers either internationally, or in their native countries. These include the likes of Annette de la Bije and Hans Wilbrink in 1954 up to Elly Ameling, Michele Molese, Evelyn Lear, Jules Bastin, Viorica Cortez, Ileana Cotrubas, Ludovic Spiess, Robert Holl, Maria Slatinaru, Mitsuko Shirai and Nelly Miricioiu up to Thomas Hampson, Ruth Ziesak, Petra Lang, Karina Gauvin and Lenneke Ruiten, to mention but a few (full list below). Having  reconstructed the complete results in 2 years of research on the IVC, Seghers decided not to depict just first/second Prize winners, but rather those singers who had the most interesting careers, or those who didn’t make one whereas they caused a stir at the IVC when they participated (such Olga Maddalena, Geraldine Hackett-Jones, Shuichi Takahashi, Vladimir Pankratov). All in all the book brings back to life over a hundred singers about next to nothing is known. At least 70% is absent from Kutch-Riemens (which of course doesn’t go to the present times). Lavishly illustrated (there are over 250 photographs in the book) it is in a way one of the most important singer anthologies published in recent times. At that, the author assembled a team that has done marvels in terms of lay-out, starting from the gatefold cover that has an inside that brings hundreds of LP, 10”, 7”, DVD, CD or book covers of either jurors, masters in master classes (Scotto, Olivero), and winners from 1954-2012 (for 2014 the jurors were featured).

*A back section about the audio history of the IVC, from its first experimental 45 rpm releases of Elly Ameling, Halina Lukomska and Edna Graham up to recent CD publications by Hansung Yoo. This section brings some stunning details on the Dutch recording industry and one of the most stunning stories revolving around the IVC: the reason why they kept every notule ever made in their 60 years of history while they never bothered to preserve even a single Final Gala Concert of the Winners, even though these were broadcast since 1954! Until two years ago these final concerts, marking either the stage debuts or the live recording debuts of all singers mentioned above and below, were considered lost for the period 1954-1992. Seghers obtained the legacy of collectors Frans van Dijk and Frans Meesters, who until their respective deaths had recorded nearly all IVC Gala concerts from 1958 up to 1986. Seghers: ‘This is the dumb luck I referred to previously: fate brought these tapes in my care because the more I do for Dutch musical life online, the more people bring me their collections to preserve for posterity.’

These tapes then formed the basis for the collaboration between the IVC and Seghers website in producing the IVC Archives website a work still in progress and which will include over 500 singers biographies with photos, slide shows, mp3 samples and videos, as well as press reviews, complete results, recollections, exclusive interviews and so on. Thus the tapes also sparked the book.

*An exclusive, unique CD with highlights from the IVC Gala concert 1954-2012, including Annette de la Bije 91954), Albert van Haasteren (1955), Elly Ameling (1956), Yvonne Minton (1960), Olga Maddalena and Jules Bastin (1961), Ileana Cotrubas (1965), Maria Slatinaru (1969), Mitsuko Shirai (1976), Drew Minter and Nelly Miricioiu (1979), Thomas Hampson (1980), Andrea Rost (1986), Lenneke Ruiten (2002) and Nadine Koutcher (2012). Given the various sources (the pre-1958 recordings were given to Seghers by the artists) and the age of the tapes, as well as the radio broadcast quality at the time, the remasterings by Merlijn Verboom and Maarten Eilander are quite remarkable. The bonus track has Magda Olivero (!!) explaining (and singing!!) ‘Sola perduta abbandonata’ to Dobrinka Yankova during Olivero’s legendary IVC Masterclass in ‘s-Hertogenbosch 1993. The CD and the chapters on the IVC broadcasts are fittingly dedicated to Frans Meesters and Frans van Dijk. Your OperaNostalgia editor -the undersigned - is  thanked in the acknowledgements, ‘for having made this publication possible at all’. I am happy to see that my efforts and support were not wasted on Mr. Seghers.

(Frans van Dijk) (author René Seghers on a visit with Charles Mintzer)

Since I do not wish to present the entire book here already, we will leave you with the list of all singers who are portrayed (in addition to which another 150 or so are featured with their photographs):

Eva Borneman, Albert van Haasteren, Arjan Blanken (1955), Halina Lukomska, Elly Ameling, Ladislav Mraz (1956), Maria van Dongen (1957), Michele Molese, Evelyn Lear, Bernard Kruysen (1958), Max van Egmond, Helga Dernesch (1959), John Wakefield, Lise Arseguet, Jindrich Jindrak (1960), Henk Smit, Yvonne Miton, Olga Maddalena (1961), Richard Novak, Anton Trommelen, Jules Bastin (1962), Margareth Duckworth, Dan Iordachescu (1963), Bozena Kinasz, Ton Thissen (1964), Siegmund Nimsgern, Viorica Cortez, Ileana Cotrubas, Pompeiu Harasteanu (1965), Marina Krilovici, Marco Bakker, Ludovic Spiess (1966), Cora Canne Meijer, Louis Hagen William, Heljä Angervo (1967), Cszilla Zentai, Kaja Borris (1968), Maria Slatinaru, John Bröcheler, Geraldine Hackett-Jones (1969), Christiane Issartel, Sona Ghazarian, Shuichi Takahashi (1970), Yuko Tsuji, Robert Holl, Thomas Thomaschke (1971), Patricia Payne, Eduard Tumgeanian, Jacques Bona (1972), James Wagner, Adrienne Szengery, Stefania Toczyska (1973), Laszlo Polgar, LaVerne Williams, Anne Haenen (1974), Andrew Dalton, Annett Andriessen (today’s director!), Vladimir Pankratov(1975), John Janssen, Mitsuko Shirai, Drew Minter (1976), Linda Finnie, Rali Viljakainen, Graham Titu (1977), Grzegorz Caban, Larissa Shevchenko, Alla Ablaberdieva (1978),  Coby Dijk (aka Elena Vink), Nelly Miricioiu, Howard Crook (1979), Mariana Cioromila, Thomas Hampson (1980), Anne Dawson, Howard Haskin, Jan Opalach (1981), Anna Caleb, Elzbieta Szmytka, Ildiko Komlossi (1982), Nellie van der Sijde, Judith Malafronte, Elizaebeth Campbell (1983), Lani Poulson, Thomas Mohr, Frans Fiselier (1984), Elena Bryleva, Leontina Vaduva, Alexander Naumenko (1985), Andrea Rost, Qing Miao (1986), Marie-Noëlle de Callataÿ, Erik Kurmangaliev, Fiona Cameron (1987), Claron McFadden, Adrianne Pieczonka, Ruth Ziesak (1988), Georgi Mirostranoff, Yvi Jänicke, Werner Van Mechelen (1989), Marina Zhukova, Oleg Malikov, Katsunori Kono (1990), Irina Romischevskaya, Ralf Lukas, Petra Lang (1991), Angelina Ruzzafante, Ewa Wolak (1992), Leonardo De Lisi, Sophie Koch, Karina Gauvin (1994), Johnny Maldonado, Kyoko Saito, Barbara Hannigan (1996), Margriet van Reisen, Oana Andra-Ullieriu, Pierre-Yves Pruvot (1998), Steven Hans Vosschezang, Veronica Amarres, Matjaž Robavs (2000), Kyle Ketelsen, Lenneke Ruiten (2002), Irina Iordachescu (daughter of 1963 winner Dan Iordachescu), Cora Burggraaf, Measha Brueggergosman (2004), Robin Tritschler, Joshua Ellicott, Kinga Dobay (2006), Falko Hönisch, Pretty Yende, Hansung Yoo (2008), Jeanine de Bique, Daniela Köhler, Yun-Jeong Lee (2010), Hannah Bradbury, Nadine Koutcher, Gulnara Shafigullina (2012).


Rudi van den Bulck