Newsletter-Vol.2009 No.5

Ferndale Farm Girl, Fresh from Met Opera Debut, Stars in Brahms Requiem on July 11
Katie Van Kooten

Katie Van Kooten

Katie van Kooten returns home after her triumphant Metropolitan Opera debut in February to sing the soprano solo in the Brahms’ Requiem at the 2009 Bellingham Festival of Music. The London Daily Telegraph called her a “major operatic talent,” comparing her the Kiri Te Kanawa and Mirella Freni.

Katie started her singing career right here in Bellingham at Meridian High School singing Rosie Alvarez in “Bye Bye Birdie”. “Back then there was very little live classical music” She had summer jobs picking in the berry fields and never thought about singing opera until her teacher at Biola University convinced her to try out for a production of the Marriage of Figaro and she was cast as Susannah. The first live opera she heard, she was in the opera! She quickly realized that she was meant to be an opera singer. She went on to study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and was chosen for the young artists program at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden where she made her debut in 2004 singing Magda in Puccini’s La Rondine which later served as her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, alternating in the role with superstar soprano, Angela Gheorghiu. The life of an opera star seems so glamorous, but it also means living in 9 cities in 6 months, so she loves coming home to Bellingham.

Unlike many international opera stars, Katie has decided to eschew the big city and has decided to return to make Bellingham her home base. Lucky Us!

Brahms’ “Operatic” German Requiem
Johannes Brahms as usually depicted

Johannes Brahms
as usually depicted

Young Brahms when he formed and conducted a ladies choir in Hamburg

Young Brahms when he formed and conducted a ladies choir in Hamburg

Brahms, like Bach and Mahler, wrote great music but never an opera. The “German Requiem” called so because it was written in German rather than the standard Latin is a very dramatic musical work, operatic in it’s scope and demands on the singers. It is Brahms’ longest work for full orchestra, chorus, and soprano and bass soloists. Unlike most Requiems, it is not meant as a liturgical piece. The text was chosen by Brahms from the Lutheran Bible. The premier was a dud because the timpanist misread the dynamic markings and played ff drowning out the chorus.

Vol. 2009, No.5

Did you know…?
  • As a teenager Brahms supported himself playing the piano in brothels and bars.
  • He was smitten with pianist and composer Clara Schumann, 14 years his senior, and wife of Robert Schumann. He never married.
  • He destroyed many compositions because of his “uncompromising perfectionism.”