• Nelly Miricioiu
  • Christopher Royall
  • Liliane Bizineche
  • Herford Savidge Crook Burgett Dijk
  • IVC 1979 Nelly Miricioiù
  • IVC 1979 Christopher Royall
  • IVC 1979 Liliane Bizineche
  • IVC 1979 Herford, Savidge, Crook, Burgett, Dijk

Seldom had an IVC Gala Concert garnered such rave reviews as this edition, which is all the more remarkable since the 1979 IVC had brought forth only one 1st prize winner, while the Great Prize of the City of Den Bosch was not even awarded! The eminent critic Chris de Jong-Stolle could not be with details, but reveled mostly in the splendid vocal achievements at the Gala Concert, when nearly all Prize Winners surpassed themselves by far, especially Nelly Miricioiù and Coby Dijk.

Hein Zomerdijk proved as enthusiastic about the level of the performances as about the fact that once more a program was found that enabled a full orchestral gala, without ‘inapt pianos being dragged on stage.’ He nearly succumbed to Nelly Miricioiù’s deeply moving singing of ‘Depuis le jour’ from Charpentier’s Louise, which fitted her voice like a glove, as did ‘È strano’ from La traviata, which Zomerdijk judged superior to ‘Qui la voce’ from I puritani. De Jong-Stolle used even stronger words to describe Miricioiù’s talents:

‘Soprano Nelly Miricioiù is an opera diva pur sang, who commands all elements of the trade to perfection. In her arias of Bellini, Charpentier and Donizetti were a triumph of vocal virtuosity and a deserved triumph for the artist, who brought the audience to a frenzy.’ (Chris de Jong-Stolle, ‘Zangers beter op het slotconcert,’ NRC?, September 14, 1979)

If Zomerdijk had some questions in the back of his mind given her appearances in the semi finals and the finals, those were now gone. It was on the evening of, 1979 that Nelly Miricioiù started her legendary, life long relationship with the Dutch audiences, who soon cherished and treasured her as the true heir to the Dutch Matinee idol of the 1960 and 70’s Magda Olivero in verismo repertoire, and to Dame Joan Sutherland in the romantic repertoire of Bellini and Donizetti.

In the light of all those ravishing operatic achievements, he found time to ponder on the different expectations that one should bring towards performances by clear Lieder singers or oratorio vocalists such as countertenor Christopher Royall, who held their ground amidst all the operatic fireworks with balanced and technically accomplished performances. De Jong-Stolle went one step further and wrote t that those spectators who had any misgivings over the large number of unpopular modern pieces during the competition, were now whole compensated since these pieces were completely absent from the Gala Concert program, which was a greatest hits of popular opera and oratorio arias! To which he added that a countertenor voice indeed was special in an aria from Händel’s Messiah, ‘He was despises.’ Zomerdijk agreed, adding that Royal forced the conductor to take a slower tempo, which was the right approach although the discrepancy made the final result a bit uneven. In addition, he had a great time listening to baritone Peter Savidge in, for example, his aria from Bach’s Weihnachtsoratorium, in which the orchestra, including the trumpettist, played a significant role as well. For a mezzo-soprano specialized in song, the Romanian Liliane Bizinecche achieved marvels in her aria from Saint-Saëns, where she unfolded more warmth in her voice than she had hitherto revealed. Where she still lacked the necessary refinement for Carmen, De Jong-Stolle pointed rather to the remarkable fact that her specialism was song, where she was perfectly at home, he assured his readers.

Opinions were divided over Mary Burgess. The smitten Zomerdijk thought she too surpassed herself, whereas De Jong-Stolle thought that the limits of her capacities were now revealed, as were baritone Henry Herford’s. Zomerdijk agreed that Herford did not yet manage to bring the aria to life, although he still felt it was a fine achievement.

Home run

In the slipstream of Miricioiù’s triumph, Coby Dijk scored sort of a home run with a superb Bellini aria that surprised the critics. De Jong-Stolle thought that her Bellini aria blended vocal warmth with sensitivity and suplesse. Zomerdijk thought she could have been better before the pause, where she sang ‘outside her repertoire.’

Ultimately, there was a surprise performance of the quintet from Mozart’s Così fan tutte, by Peter Herford, Coby Dijk, Mary Burgett, Howard Crook and Peter Savidge, three of who sang it without having a score near! The orchestra blended splendidly with them, and the audience rewarded this special gesture to them with triple applause.

André Vandernoot, the new conductor

With so much excitement about the vocalists, we almost forgot to mention the once again highly praised achievement of the Brabant Orchestra, with a new conductor on the rostrum in the person of André Vandernoot. He faced a tough challenge in stepping into André Rieu Sr.’s shoes, but, like the singers, the conductor rose to the challenge and made a splendid impression from the stat in Beethoven’s ‘Egmond Overture.’



Wednesday, September 12, 1979 *
IVC Concluding Gala Concert, City Theatre Casino, Den Bosch
Brabant Orchestra –
André Vandernoot (conductor)


1   Beethoven Egmond ‘Overture’
2 Christopher Royall (ct)
The Messiah ‘O thou that tallest good tiding from Zion’
3 Coby Dijk (s)
Mozart Die Entführung aus dem Serail ‘Ach ich Liebte’
4 Henry Herford (bt)
Mozart Le nozze di Figaro ‘Hai la finta la causa… Verdro mentrio sospiro’
5 Mary Burgett (s)
Mozart Così fan tutte ‘Smanie impeccabile’
6 Howard Crook (t)
Mozart Die Zauberflöte ‘Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd
7 Liliane Bizinech (ms)
Saint-Saëns Samson et Dalila ‘Amour, viens aider ma faiblesse’
8 Peter Savidge (bt)
Mendelssohn Elias ‘Lord, God of Abraham’
9 Nelly Miricioiù (s)
Bellini I puritani ‘Qui la voce’
10 Christopher Royall (ct)
Händel The Messiah ‘He was despised’
11 Peter Savidge (bt)
Bach Weihnachtsoratorium ‘Grosser Herren, starker König’
12 Coby Dijk (s)
Bellini La sonnambula ‘Ah non credea mirarti… Ah, non giunge’
13 Howard Crook (t)
Donizetti L’elisire d’amore ‘Una furtiva lagrima’
14 Liliane Bizineche (ms)
Bizet Carmen ‘Pres des remparts de Seville’
15 Nelly Miricioiù (s) Charpentier Louise ‘Depuis le jour’
16 Henry Herford (bt)
Verdi Don Carlo ‘Per me giunto’
17 Mary Burgett (ms)
Massenet Werther ‘Air des lettres’
18 Peter Herford, Coby Dijk, Mary Burgett, Howard Crook, Peter Savidge
Mozart Così fan tutte  ‘Sento, o Dio, che questo piede è restio’ **
19 Nelly Miricioiù (s)
Verdi La traviata ‘È strano!... Sempre libera’


* Since the original concert program is missing from our archives, we do not know the complete program and the exact order of the arias. We do know that Miricioiù sang all three mentioned arias. The Charpentier aria was omitted at the original broadcast, but broadcast separately at a later date. Other than that aria, which is mentioned as her first number in the press, all arias appear as they do on our archive recordings.

** The Così fan tutte quintet was a surprise bonus, and was not printed in the program.