José van Dam, bass-baritone

World-renowned in concert, opera and recital, José van Dam is one of today’s most honored interpreters of the bass-baritone repertoire. He has been heard in the music capitals of Europe, the Americas and Japan, singing at opera houses and concert halls under the world’s premier conductors.

Born in Brussels, José van Dam entered the Brussels Conservatory at age 17, graduating a year later with first prizes in voice and opera performance. Within a few years he had won four prizes in competitions, including the Bel Canto Competition in Liège; Concours “Ecole des Vedettes” in Paris; Concours de la Chanson in Toulouse; and the International Music Competition in Geneva. He made his operatic debut in Liège as Don Basilio in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and subsequently performed the role of Escamillo in Bizet’s Carmen at La Scala, Paris Opera, and Covent Garden. Conductor Lorin Maazel asked Mr. van Dam to record Ravel’s L’Heure Espagnole for Deutsche Grammophon, subsequently inviting him to join the Deutsche Oper in Berlin where he sang his first leading roles.

The art of José van Dam can be heard on an extensive discography. Among his award-winning recordings are Gounod’s Faust, Enescu’s Oedipe, Massenet’s Don Quichotte, and Pelléas et Mélisande with Claudio Abbado for Deutsche Grammophon. He can be heard as Figaro in The Marriage of Figaro, in Carmen and Die Meistersinger conducted by Sir Georg Solti, Berlioz’ Romeo et Juliette with the Boston Symphony led by Seiji Ozawa, and Simon Boccanegra with Claudio Abbado and the Orchestra of La Scala. Other releases include Mozart’s Così fan tutte and Strauss’ Salome with the Vienna Philharmonic, and many recordings with Herbert von
Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic including Beethoven’s Fidelio and Ninth Symphony, the Brahms German Requiem, Bruckner’s Te Deum, Mozart’s Requiem and Coronation Mass, Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, and Wagner’s Parsifal. He is a two-time Grammy Award winner, in 1985 for his recording of Ravel songs with Pierre Boulez conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and in 1992, Best Opera Recording for Richard Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten.

José van Dam was regularly invited to the world’s major opera houses and festivals including l’Opéra de Paris, Covent Garden, La Scala, Vienna State Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Brussels’ Théâtre de la Monnaie, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Salzburg Festival, San Francisco Opera, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He has appeared in numerous operas in these locations portraying FalstaffWozzeckSimon BoccanegraDon Giovanni, the four villains in The Tales of Hoffmann, Boris Godunov, Sachs (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg), Amfortas (Parsifal), The Flying Dutchman, Jochanaan (Salome), Mephisto in Gounod’s Faust, Scarpia inTosca, and Gianni Schicchi.

 In 2010, he performed Don Quichotte at La Monnaie in Brussels and released a multiple rewarded CD proposing highlights of his appearances on the stage Monnaie during the last 4 decades. To honour his artistic excellence, the Belgian governement organized a gala concert  entitled “José van Dam and friends” at the Royal Castle of Laeken, on July 2, 2010. This concert was at the same time inaugurating the Belgian Presidency of the European Union.

Other highlights include van Dam sing the Speaker in Die Zauberflöte at the Paris Opera, the Verdi Requiem with Daniele Gatti in Liège, the Berlioz Romeo et Juliette with Lorin Maazel at Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, and his return to the Boston Symphony for concert performances of the title role in Simon Boccanegra led by James Levine. He also appeared in La Damnation de Faust with the Boston Symphony and James Levine at Tanglewood, in Boston, at Carnegie Hall, and on tour with performances in Lucerne, Essen, Paris and London. Furthermore he sang Fra Melitone in La forza del destino in Brussels; Germont in La Traviata, the Father in Charpenter’s Louise, Prokofiev’s The Love For Three Oranges, all at the Paris Opera; the title role in staged performances of Elijah at the Teatro Communale di Firenze and at the Saito Kinen Festival with Seiji Ozawa; the title role of Boris Godunov and Germont in La Traviata at La Monnaie in Brussels; Janacek’s From The House of the Dead at the Teatro Real in Madrid; Claudius in Hamlet at the Grand Theatre de Geneve; recitals in Bucharest, Frankfurt, Madrid, Peralada, and Vienna and concert appearances at the Concertgebouw, the Verbier Festival and elsewhere.

Mr. van Dam has been honored in many countries around the world. His Majesty Albert II of Belgium named him a Baron, and the city of Berlin awarded him the title of “Kammersänger.” For his many extraordinary interpretations in recordings and on stage, he has received the German Music Critics’ Prize, Gold Medal of the Belgian Press, Grand Prix de l’Académie Française du Disque, the Orphée d’Or of the Académie Lyrique Française in 1980 and 1994, the European Critics’ Prize forSt. Francois d’Assise, and France’s Diapason d’Or and Prix de la Nouvelle Académie du Disque. He was featured in the motion pictures The Music Teacher and Don Giovanni, conducted by Lorin Maazel, and his video recording of Schubert’s Winterreise has been released by Disques Forlane.

In recent years, he has also collaborated with Jean-philippe Collard-Neven and Jean-Louis Rassinfosse on albums devoted to Carlos Gardel’s tangos (José van Dam meets Carlos Gardel) and French songs (Chansons d’automne).

Since 2004, he is Master in Residence of the singing section at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in Waterloo. In 2023, he becomes Master in residence Emeritus, passing the torch to Stéphane Degout and Sophie Koch.