“…you are just like Alice in Wonderland…”
that’s what the well-known Dutch contralto, Aafje Heynis, exclaimed after hearing me sing for her in her home. And, even though she had actually stopped coaching singers who were just starting their careers, she told me that she would take me on as her pupil.
Gingerly, with much admiration and a great deal of passion, I surrendered to a totally unknown world. At the time I thought that it was only her intention to train me as a mezzo soprano.
However, Aafje Heynis also taught me that learning to sing is not only about voice training and singing technique, but much more than that. It is also about diving into one’s own inner self and being in touch with your emotions. “You will probably cry a river of tears,” she said, and today I can still feel the truth behind these words. Sometimes by journeying through my inner self to reach those pristine depths that can be touched when singing, I am able to experience the music more intensely, so that not only the interpretations that are sung triumph through their various layers and credibility but, to the same extent, the music enriches my everyday life with its many colors and voices sung together in canon.
My life is a life immersed in music but, at the same time, it is a life full of joy and lightness. I left the Netherlands to stay for an indeterminate period in Italy and it was there that I became acquainted with Verdi’s and Puccini’s world of opera from up close. I studied under the Italian heroic tenor Giovanni Mastino, at the Conservatorio dall’Abaco in Verona, and then I felt like one of the family as I listened zealously to the operas that were sung in the Arena di Verona.
When I returned to the Netherlands, it was Charlotte Margiono who was my vocal coach and I also took voice lessons from the German Wagner tenor Manfred Jung. Nonetheless, it was not the powerful and mystical music composed by Richard Wagner which captured my spirit. My heart opened up more and more to the subtle nuances found in the “Lied” repertoire and I found much more faith and comfort in spiritual music.
The German alto Ingeborg Danz furthered my training in this style of music and she encouraged me to trust my inner voice and to follow it. I continued by participating in courses and Master classes in the “Barocke Vokalmusik”, and I still enjoy my memories of the German tenor Gerd Türk who inspired me musically and encouraged me to follow what he called my ‘singing intuition’. In this way I was able to become better acquainted with baroque music.
After that, it was at the Accademia Lirica per Il Belcanto in Italy where I immersed myself in “Belcanto”.
As a matter of fact, my father would like to remind me that I still have a bit of “the joyful Catholic” in me and that I derive great pleasure from singing operetta arias. And yes, he was right. I can become very joyful when I sing the so-called ‘Leichte Muse’, and every now and then I sing a pop song in my own fashion. I certainly don’t mind doing this at all.
As a result, the thoroughness of my voice studies, combined with my all-round interests in singing, also make it possible for me to sing in a wide array of musical productions and concerts. Again and again, the German press mentions my voice’s ‘melodiöse Leichtigkeit’, which is anchored in “einer ausdruckstarken Warme im Klang”. I feel quite proud of the ‘melodiöse Leichtigkeit’ because this has resulted from intensive voice training, and it can only be achieved by much practice.
I experience great pleasure in working together with small instrumental ensembles and choirs at home and abroad. Often the creations that are performed together touch the hearts of the audience once again, and in the end that is the real essence of music.
In 2012, a small choral ensemble of women was formed by pupils from my singing classes. I find it gratifying to offer them the opportunity to perform during my recitals. The recital ‘L’heure Exquise’ was our first joint project and our next project will not be long in coming.
As a professional singer and as a singing teacher I have been noticing lately how, in my own way, I am able to bring joy to others. Every time this happens I derive great pleasure and I am grateful when I see how singing can inspire others and how this joie de vivre can be transmitted during the individual lessons or the choral workshops that I organize. Often when I teach singing to others, my own previous voice studies come in handy. Many a time, vocal training combines an intense relationship with one’s own body while at the same time it provides a healing path for the soul. Guiding this process to fruition means a great deal to me.
In regard to the near future, I have promised myself to fulfill this wish in what is definitely my most favorite country, Italy. This will be in the form of singing workshops ‘à la Catharina’ in the Italian Marche, in the middle of nature on a farm in the countryside.