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Jul 27, 2019

Donij van Doorn Clicks With André Rieu

Photo: Place de l'Opera

Donij van Doorn Clicks With André Rieu 

Maastricht July 26, 2019 from "Place de l'Opera" magazine by François van den Anker. 
If you follow soprano Donij van Doorn on Instagram, you will see the enthusiasm with which she secures her experiences during the Vrijthof concerts by André Rieu and shares them with the world. That enthusiasm is just as present when she speaks, which François van den Anker discovered during an interview just before the last concert. 

André is a musician through and through. 
Sunday afternoon in Maastricht. The tables outside are already being prepared and on the twelve thousand chairs, bottles of water - with André Rieu's own label - are ready for the visitors. That evening it will be Rieu's one hundredth Vrijthof concert and his Johann Strauss Orchestra. This year's motto is "Shall we dance," which is why former members of the American band "The Village People," performing under the name of "Kings of Disco", have been included in the program. 

Dutch soprano Donij van Doorn has her own unique task: to bring tranquility with a large aria which - although she is convinced - will put visitors who have no affinity with the genre of opera, on the right track. 

Donij is many faceted singer, well-educated and with an interest in many types of classical-vocal music. "It once started with piano", she told during the interview when Place de l’Opera was with her five years ago. Two operas from the Dutch Travel Opera (Nederlandse Reisopera), in which the young Enschede resident performed as a member of a children's choir, which made such an impression that she decided to become a singer. 

She studied in Maastricht, was part for two years of the then so called "Opera Studio Nederland", sang with "Holland Opera" and "Opera per Tutti" and played Bubikopf in the highly acclaimed production of Ullmann's "Der Kaiser von Atlantis". (The Emperor of Atlantis) 

She has good memories of the six years of conservatory studies in Maastricht. "I had a super fun time," she says in one of the changing rooms in the Theater on the Vrijthof, which serves as a base during the André Rieu concerts. “I came to Maastricht from Enschede (in the province of Overijssel). I liked the city very much and we were a great group of students. ”In those years she sometimes visited the Perroen, a café on the Vrijthof which during the Rieu concerts offers dinner with a view from a raised terrace of the event. But frequently going out was - and still is - even in café city Maastricht - not for singing students. 

You have to sweeten the pot in order to move them 
She was in her third year when André Rieu was urgently looking for a soprano to fill in in the choir for a DVD recording in the Efteling. “I received a call and thought for a moment that it was a joke. But the next day I auditioned and immediately signed a contract. "The most important reason she said "yes" was that while working on the music, I immediately felt a musical click with André. "And so it almost became a real fairy tale: performing in the Efteling with the world famous Johann Strauss Orchestra."

After that introduction, the Rieu's invitations kept coming in. During an American tour, Donij sang the "Vilja Lied", even with jet lag, for literally thousands of people every evening. Due to those tours she was occasionally absent from her studies which was not very much appreciated by the teachers. “I always received good grades, but they started going down. They wanted me to spend more time on my studies. I understood that, but I explained to them that from those few weeks of touring I could pay for my master's degree.” 

“What struck me from the start was the enthusiasm, the pleasure in the music which everyone radiates around André. There are no differences here. Orchestra musicians, singers, technicians: it is all one big family, with André in the lead. That pleasure that you see on stage and which is so appreciated by the audience, that is real! André is an excellent employer. We are well taken care of. ”

We now know André Rieu the entertainer and entrepreneur better than André Rieu the musician. What does his musical side look like? 
“He thinks very much as an instrumentalist and loves
extremes, from a very large fortissimo to the very smallest. With a microphone - we are amplified in those huge halls and also here outside - you can afford yourself a lot. There will probably be people who think that such a huge rite of passage is way too big and I wouldn't do it in my other work as a singer, but here it is possible. Remember: there are 10,000 to 15,000 people who not all are familiar with classical music in advance, so you have to sweeten the pot to move them. And that works." 

What is that sweetness? 
“André is a true musician through and through, relying on his instinct. He knows what appeals to people and has his own unique style. We work a lot with special arrangements, although this year I almost do the entire aria "Ebben, ne andrò lontana" from La Wally original. Now an extra chorus insert repetition has been added. It adds to the aria and is experienced by to the people in a stronger manner. André knows exactly what touches people. The proof of that is provided here every evening, on the Vrijthof, for 12,000 people.” 

He is one of the few conductors with whom I can do an aria like" Caro nome "ninety times a year. 
After her graduation in Maastricht, a difficult dilemma arose in the development of this young soprano. She could expand her work with André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra or join the Opera Studio Nederland, which would in two years teach her a lot about singing, the profession and everything that comes with it. She chose the studio, and she certainly did not regret it. 

How did that go during that period, when you were faced with that choice? 
Hans Nieuwenhuis, the leader of the Opera Studio, came to Maastricht to watch an imitation performance led by Roger Smeets at the conservatory. He invited me to the studio's audition rounds. André Rieu was also persuing me during that period; he wanted me as a soloist. But I still wanted to learn a lot more. During that first tour in America I was young and inexperienced and I wanted to continue with opera. I had a really good time with the Opera Studio Nederland - two years later they closed due to cut backs. You received many singing lessons and coachings. We had physical training three times a week and good conductors came to work with us."

Was there also a choice between the profession and the big money? 
“No. If I had opted for the money, I would have studied law, haha! I wanted to develop further. With the orchestra you tour the world with one aria. I am very happy with the choice I made at the time. André, who really wanted me for his tours, understood and supported my decision." 

In addition to the huge Rieu productions, your resume also mentions smaller, highly artistic projects. How does that work together? 
“I see myself as a versatile singer, who can serve many genres. I like to mix that up. Since I have a permanent contract with Rieu, I can't do much else in addition to that. A performance such as here at the Vrijthof puts a lot of pressure on you. In the short time I have on stage here, I really have to go all out with my aria. With a role in an opera you can build that up more and you have more time to make yourself heard. Luckily I manage to play a role in an opera every summer, and the organization here affords me that oppertunity. André allows me to do that." 

Your contribution to the performance is a large classical aria. Which one have you performed in recent years? 
"After it "Vilja Lied" came "Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiss". And I did an "Ave Maria", but that didn't feel right in this setting. "È strano ... Ah, big "lazy ", the aria of Violetta from La traviata, that was really a piece in which I could sink my teeth in. Fine tuning, growing and doing it better every night. That's possible with André, originally he is a violinist, but he is one of the few conductors with whom I could to do an aria like "Caro nome" from Rigoletto ninety times a year. He is easy to read and we have an excellent balance in giving and taking. If I want to speed up somewherein tempo , not every conductor will go along with that, but André sees that and notices how I am on that day. We can challenge each other on stage, sometimes he lets a note last much longer or I demand something from him. That interaction is very exciting."



Do you participate in the choice of your pieces in the performance? 
"Fortunately yes! A few months before the Vrijthof concerts we start thinking about my part in the program. For this year I wanted to sing Catalia's aria "Ebben, ne andrò lontana", but André came up with different ideas. Of course I very graciously sang that first. Then I was afforded the time to sing the aria from La Wally. I then saw André's tears and thought: yes! I scored! André is very sincere and honest about that. The opera "La Wally" is relatively unknown, certainly with our audience. I am very happy that André is willing to listen to and acknowledge what suits me." 

You once said: André Rieu has really changed something with classical music. What is that? 
“That is an interesting question. I do not really have the image that our visitors afterwards will immediately consult the Dutch National Opera program. I know that André would like to convey the pleasures of classical music and during the performance I only provide opera the part. I do that with pride. I hope, no, I know that there are always a few people who liked the aria and later on will listen to other recordings. In that way they discover from which opera the piece is. These people also come to my other concerts and recitals. I use my own family and friends just as an example: they are not into classical music, but when they come to a performance of mine, they have to let that music come in without knowing anything about it. If you touch someone, I think that has nothing to do with what he or she knows." 

I am just an average person
When the conversation has ended, Donij shows how the Vrijthof is being prepared for the one hundredth performance for that evening in "the Maastricht living room", as the square is known locally. There are fans already and heads turn as the soprano passes by. The security staff also knows her; the crew pass is not necessary when we enter the well-guarded area for a photo. 

André Rieu is a world star, do you ever pinch yourself when you walk around in between those 12,000 seats and on stage? 
“I am well aware that I am on stage with a living legend, who by the way is also a very nice person. But I am just an average person who enjoyshaving everything being done for me during the tours, but who also just likes to go shopping at home. After this series of concerts I will rehearse for something completely different, the opera "La Grotta di Trofonio" by Salieri, which this year will be performed by Opera Nijetrijne in the nature reserve between Friesland and Overijssel (two provinces in the Netherlands). Director Nynke van den Bergh and I have been wanting to work together for a long time and that is now going to happen with my debut with Nijetrijne. I am really looking forward to that."


Thank You Ineke for the article and your and John's  Translation!
All other photos by André’s photographer Marcel van Hoorn
Place de l'Opera ► https://www.operamagazine.nl/binnenkort/48878/donij-van-doorn-heeft-een-klik-met-andre-rieu/

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