Brabants Dagblad published a report on the proceedings revolving around the finals on Saturday, when the Casino Theatre Den Bosch was buzzing from excitement, tension, and enthusiasm, given the loud cheering-on that accompanied nearly all numbers:
‘The air was rife with compassion, intense identification with the candidates, and also with admiration for those youngsters that challenged the odd with their voices and talent. The IVC remains an event with a myriad of aspects that make it what it is, an educational, and a musical celebration that has unique social and artistic value also for the city, the province and the country. As long as this competition maintains its value and popularity, it should continue.
When we review the entire list o semi finalist, it must be said that the judgments were fair, and all 18 finalists were chosen for good reasons. There were also no discrepancies within the Jury, it seems. Having said that, it was quite a marathon to hear all finalists out during the overlong finals, which lasted from 11 AM to 6 PM, including 18 mini recitals with a total of 63 musical piece, either arias for opera or oratorio, or songs. Those who started out by making notes of each detail in interpretation ultimately stuck to just listing the names and numbers.
It should also be said that the finalist made the most of it in this 26 edition of the IVC Den Bosch. There can be no doubt that administering the Prizes will be a hard task, although it is easy to see that with so much operatic fireworks, Lieder interpreters will have a hard battle in this competition, no matter how good they were. And yet, there were clearly some knowledgeable people among the audience, since the Finnish soloist Kalevi Olli was loudly applauded for his refined singing in Schubert’s extremely demanding ‘Der Zwerg,’ which even garnered him a few bravos! His reward, an Honorary Diploma, was a meager Prize, even though he of course face the task of having to follow up on Schubert with two difficult arias.’ (Hein Zomerdijk, ‘Vocalistenconcours is uniek,’ Brabants Dagblad, September 10, 1979.)
Admittedly, Zomerdijk’s journalistic ‘distance’ was by now long gone. Over the years he had turned from an objective critic into an enthusiastic supporter of the event. His descriptions of the proceedings and the achievements were still knowledgeable, just and very insightful, but from a mere observer he had now clearly made it his mission to help the IVC persevere by making its value crystal clear in the public mind, and thus also in the political arena, where the financial backbone was increasingly challenged in recent years.
Zomerdijk’s ‘turnover’ demonstrates how the IVC can get to its audience, including renowned critics, in a way that regular 2 or 3-hour performance could never achieve. This effect is not unique to the IVC, but rather intrinsic to vocal competitions around the globe, although Den Bosch held a rather special place among them at a point in time where every famous city in the musical world seemed to have started a vocal competition. The miracle is that by 1979, Den Bosch remained on a par with competitions as those in Munich, Barcelona, Geneva, and the Royal one in Brussels, most of them offering substantially higher financial rewards for Prize Winners. According to President of the Jury Manus Willemsen, this was on one part due to the combination of what Zomerdijk described above with the provincial good heartedness of the people, many of them hosting candidates as a charity. On the other side, candidates were given a fair treatment in The Netherlands, where decisions were never made on extra musical grounds. Where rumors around decision elsewhere had occasionally been challenged on extra musical grounds, 26 years o IVC had given rise to fierce disputes in the press and among the audience, juries had been accused of incompetence, even of ‘deafness,’ but never of promoting particular singers for an array of possible wrong reasons.