Gré Brouwenstijn is considered to be the greatest Dutch female opera singer of the twentieth century. She garnered worldwide fame with performances in almost all of the great opera houses, from Kiev, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to Bayreuth, Vienna, Paris, Glyndebourne, and London. She also performed extensively ...
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Biography Gré Brouwenstijn
Gré Brouwenstijn is considered to be the greatest Dutch female opera singer of the twentieth century. She garnered worldwide fame with performances in almost all of the great opera houses, from Kiev, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to Bayreuth, Vienna, Paris, Glyndebourne, and London. She also performed extensively in the Netherlands, singing in 113 productions. Brouwenstijn was known not only for her unusual “youthful” dramatic soprano voice, but also “her grand presence and her strong ability to identify with the characters, whom she portrays with such great humanity.” (NRC Handelsblad, December 17, 1999). She was celebrated for her interpretations of roles such as Elisabeth in Verdi's Don Carlos, Leonore in Beethoven's Fidelio, and Tosca in Puccini's similarly titled opera.
1915 - 1935
Gerarda Demphina Brouwenstijn is born August 26 in Den Helder. For most of her childhood, however, she lives in Amsterdam. Her remarkable voice is first noticed when as an elementary school student she sings in the choir of Nico ter Linden. Ter Linden advises her to take singing lessons. Because she is set on becoming a singer, she takes evening lessons in French and German in addition to singing. In 1931 she is admitted to the Amsterdam Music Lyceum at age 16 and there studies with Jaap Stroomenbergh and Boris Pelsky. To support herself, she works as a maid. After the Music Lyceum, she enters the Amsterdam Conservatory and is placed in Johannes den Hertog's opera class. In this opera class, she sings her first role: Leonore in Verdi's 'La Forza del destino'.
1939 - 1945
On December 11 Brouwenstijn gives her first professional opera performance in a production of 'The Magic Flute' by Mozart. Brouwenstijn sings Giulietta in Offenbach's 'Les contes d'Hoffmann'. During the war, she sings with the Netherlands Radio Choir.
Brouwenstijn sings her first title role, Tosca in the opera by Puccini. Her first husband, the tenor Jan van Mantgem, has the role of Cavaradossi. Over the next few years, Brouwenstijn becomes renowned in the Netherlands singing in operas by Verdi, as well as Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss and Mascagni.
Brouwenstijn sings Leonore in Beethoven's 'Fidelio' for the first time. It becomes one of her favourite roles: “Because I'm enormously moved by a woman who sacrifices herself to save her husband. I would, too”. (Algemeen Dagblad, December 18, 1999)
1951 - 1954
She gains international acclaim singing the title role in a production in London of Verdi's opera 'Aida'. In the Holland Festival, she triumphs as Desdemona in Verdi's 'Otello'. Brouwenstijn makes her debut in Bayreuth, the start of a great Wagner career.
Brouwenstijn is internationally celebrated. In the 1950s and '60s she works with such conducters as Von Karajan, Giulini, Klemperer, Böhm, Furtwängler and Beecham in the opera houses of London, Chicago, Paris, Stuttgart, Buenos Aires, Vienna and Bayreuth. Only at New York's Metropolitan Opera has she not performed, because she does not want to debut there in a Wagnerian role, preferring Verdi or Puccini, but the Met's general manager, Rudolf Bing, does not offer her those roles. She triumphs in Bayreuth in major Wagnerian roles, but in 1957 the Wagner brothers (the composer's grandsons) break off the relationship because she declined an invitation. TIME Magazine rates Brouwenstijjn as “one of the best sopranos in the world.” (Het Parool, April 3, 1999)
In Lucchino Visconti's production of Verdi's 'Don Carlos' at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden – she calls it “the production of my life” (Het Parool, September 7, 1995) -- Brouwenstijn sings the role of Elisabeth amid such opera luminaries as Boris Christoff, Tito Gobbi and Jon Vickers. The performance was given in celebration of the opera house's centennial.
After a singing career of 25 years Brouwenstijn gives her final performances with De Nederlandse Opera Stichting. In June she sings her signature role of Leonore in Beethoven's 'Fidelio'. Among the audience are Princess Beatrix and Prince Claus. The shah of Iran sends Brouwenstijn 200 red roses to mark the occasion.
For her 80th birthday, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw organizes a gala evening with performances of many of her favourite arias. In an encore, 'Brüderlein und Schwesterlein' from Fledermaus, Brouwenstijn's voice can be heard at “overwhelming” volume and “still getting the high notes”. (Algemeen Dagblad, September 3, 1995)
On December 14, Gré Brouwnstijn dies in Amsterdam at age 84.
Discography Gré Brouwenstijn
Portret van Gré Brouwenstijn: Opera aria's, Dutch masters vol. 6
|Type and year||2CD, 1997|
A portrait of Gré Brouwenstijn
|Type and year||4CD, 2009|
|Label||Gala, GL 100667|
|Type and year||CD, 2011|
|Label||Newton Classics, 8802061|
In the discography you will find all recordings that have been released listed chronologically. We restrict ourselves to the title, the type of audio, year of publication or recording, label, list of guest musicians, plus any comments on the issue.
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