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 Lorin Maazel, and his recording of Schubert’sWinterreise has been released by Disques Forlane.
“Voice and technique are for him the tools of the trade; they are what liberate him to do anything he wants to do. In every song he finds a point of intersection with his own life and experience, but he does not sing songs of himself. Instead, he enters so completely into the poet’s word, the musician’s note, that he himself virtually disappears. He stands there, hands folded, as the message pours through him.”