It's no wonder, given the large amount of talent that has graced the realm of classical music since the dawn of the recorded age, that we have such a huge number of great performers. Artur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Jessye Norman are all relatively well known even among people who don't listen to classical music. But once in a while, someone falls through the cracks and doesn't quite achieve the fame they might deserve.

Witness Christina Deutekom. Maybe she's more famous than I know, but I've only ever heard her in one recording – as the Queen of the Night in Mozart's Magic Flute. But what a performance.

A few years back I bought my first copy of that opera — featuring Gorg Solti conducting the Wiener Philharmonic. With that lineup, I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. And I wasn't. Sumi Jo as the Queen turned in a very credible and able performance. And I was happy with this 1991 recording… until I heard another version on CBC radio.

And it turns out, it's basically the same lineup – the Vienna Phil with Solti again, only this time it's from 1971, and Christina Deutekom is the Queen. And what a difference! The force and the crispness of her voice are incredible. Listen to the triplets about halfway through. Where Sumi Jo sings them legato (like most performances I've heard) Deutekom rings each note separately and it makes the world of difference. It sounds almost impossible that she's able to separate them so well.

Der Holle Rache (1971)
Christina Deutekom – Vienna Philharmonic with Sir Georg Solti

I'd love to know if her career as a recording musician went any further. I've never come across her name again – but given the quality of this performance, she really deserves to be listed as one of the greats.

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5 responses »

  1. Edgar says:

    Hi,
    Just read your comment on Deutekom as Queen of Night. I have to agree she is incredible. She was an absolute amzazing singer whose repertoire was just as wild as her voice. She even sang heavy stuff like Turandot with ease and convincing. There are two recordings of Verdi Opera's on the Phillips label. I Lombardi and Attila. The second aria in Attila is just out of this planet with her singing a chromatic scale that would even put a clarinettist to shame, so absolutely perfect. There also is a Phillips recording (double cd) with her singing all sorts of stuff. She is known to have been the foremost dramatic coloratura of her generation. Her voice was not particulary attractive but her technique was very special and her voice was enormously powerfull and dramatic. She was able to sing just about anything withing her range.
    She was discovered warming up her voice in her dressingroom (with both arias from the Queen of Night, transposed up a minor third) as Elisabeth Schwarzkopf passed by to go to the toilet. Schwarzkopf was awestruck with wat she heard and made sure that Deutekom got an audition at several opera houses. Within the shortest of times she was singing the Queen of Night at the Metropolitan opera. Leaving the audience in a shock. Never in the history of man had anyone heard such an incredible Queen of Night.
    Her coloratura technique (however perfect) was so different from any other singer that meny people had difficulty getting used to it. In Italy however she was twice proclaimed best singer of the year due to a most incredible performance of Rossini's Armida. Her rendition of the aria "Amor al dolce imperio" is just not to be believed (a live recording is available).
    Halveway the seventhies she stopped using her typical coloratura technique altogether.
    There is a DVD of her doing the Queen of Night. It it is a 1971 recording from the Hamburg State Opera. Though its a studio recording and the voices are dubbed, it's still quite nice and gives a good impression of what she must have been like on stage (fragments are to be seen on youtube.com).
    In 1974 she was asked to open the Metropolitan opera season as the most wanted soprano of the year. She did so by singing Elena in Verdi's I Vespri… next to Placido Domingo. It was a totall triumph and there was want for an extra evening to please de demands. Pitifully however people in the Netherland (her homeland) could not cope with her succes and out of spite and envy the Dutch operahouse boss did not allow her to stay longer in New York for an extra scheduled evening of I Vespri. Deutekom honoured her Dutch opera contract and flew back. Leaving the powers that where at the Metropolitan irritated. How could she turn her back on them for such a totally unimportant opera house as the Netherlands? The relationship between Deutekom and the Metropolitan had somewhat cooled after the incident and this all might have contributed to her not getting the sort of fame one would expect from such a fenomenal singer.
    In 1987 she had to end her career due to heartproblems. She was born in 1932, she recently had a stroke and now is an old woman in ill health.

  2. Mistergone says:

    Wow, thanks for all the info. I hadn't realized she was discovered by Schwarzkopf (one of my favorites – I have her doing the Marriage of Figaro and it gets me every time). That's a really interesting fact. I'll have to look into finding some other recordings. If her phrasing is similar in quality to this performance, I'm sure I'll love anything she's in.

  3. Edgar says:

    Well you won't have to much difficulty finding other recordings.
    On the Phillips label:
    – I Lombardi

  4. Edgar says:

    Hé how strange, only a fragment of my comment made it on this page.
    Well I wrote:
    On the Phillips label:- I Lombardi (Deutekom, Domingo)
    – Attila (Deutekom, Milnes, Raimondi, Bergonzi
    – Double disc with many different arias
    EMI
    – Christ on the mountain of olives
    And several live recordings on different labels.
    Good luck,
    Edgar

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