The Singing Waitress Strikes Back: Grand Prix Antoine Livio for Eva-Maria Westbroek

Eva-Maria Westbroek in Wagners Valkyrie at the Festival Aix-en-Provence in 2007

Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek (b. 1971-) has been awarded the 2008 Grand Prix Antoine Livio by the Presse Musicale Internationale. According to the PMI jury report Westbroek has fashioned her singing career in an exemplary way and has remarkable power of expression as a performer. Not bad for a girl who once was a singing waitress in a novelty Amsterdam restaurant, and a terrible one at that according to herself: ‘For a table of two I ordered 233 pastas and I’d be called to the manager, who gave me other jobs.’ But already when she started formal training as a singer her voice was like a horse out of control, galloping away with her, because she already had the lungs and temperament for much meatier material than Mozart or Handel.

Westbroek was trained at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague from 1988 to 1995 and has been working for the Stuttgarter Staatsoper from 1999 until 2006. She particularly drew the attention of the critics’ eyes and ears as Sieglinde in Wagners Valkyrie at the Festival Aix-en-Provence in 2007, a part she already did in London’s Covent Garden and will reprise at the San Francisco Opera on June 12, 2010and at the New York Metropolitan Opera in May 2011.

The award ceremony will take place on 18 January 2009 at the Opéra National de Paris, on the day after the premiere of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, in which Westbroek will undoubtedly excell as inlaw-poisoning and husband-killing Katerina Ismailova. This is her doing Katerina in a different performance of the same opera. According to a critic from The Times, who saw her as Katerina in London, she was ‘the perfect bored, loveless slut (…) in a performance that simply didn’t put a foot wrong.’ And last September, in Puccini’s exotic romp La fanciulla del West at the London Royal Opera House Westbroek was applauded by Fiona Maddocks in the following way: ‘outstanding as the ROH’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, she has a mighty vocal and physical presence, ideal for this golden-hearted bar-keeper, mother superior and general purpose pin-up girl.’ So that’s pretty good waitressing after all.

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