Jozef Sterkens

11 March 1893 Antwerp – 3 May 1952 Antwerp

Picture of Jozef Sterkens

Jozef Sterkens singsDie tote Stadt: Glück, das mir verblieb, in Dutch
In RA format

Jozef Sterkens singsDer fliegende Holländer: Willst jenes Tags, in Dutch
In RA format

Born Jozef Steuren, he was originally an art teacher who loved to sing, so he studied voice at the Antwerp conservatory, just for fun. In 1923, a local music critic heard him sing by chance, and was so enthusiastic that he arranged Steuren's further training with Antwerp heldentenor Edmond Borgers.

Steuren, now Sterkens, made his debut as a concert singer in 1924, and the operatic debut in 1925 at the Royal Flemish Opera Antwerp, where he was to spend his entire career, into the 1940s. From 1935 to 1942, he was also that theater's director.

The positively bizarre hostility between Dutch and French speakers that has been shaping Belgium from time immemorial was particularly virulent in Antwerp between the two World Wars; there was, other than the Royal Flemish, also a Royal French Opera (until 1933), and Sterkens, who performed exclusively in Dutch ("Flemish", for Belgian standards), quickly became a symbol of the Flemish nationalists. He participated in the Flemish premieres of numerous works: Sadko (1925), Paganini and Její pastorkyňa (both 1927), Sly (1929), Die tote Stadt (1932) and Daphne (1939). He was a good friend of the Flemish composer Renaat Veremans, whose songs he often performed in concert, and whose opera Anne-Marie he premiered in 1937. From 1931, he appeared also in Flemish movies.

In 1942, he resigned from his post at the Antwerp opera, and became director of the Alhambra Theater in Brussels, where he also made his last appearance as a singer in 1943, as Florestan. The Alhambra Theater was used by the German occupying forces for closed performances for the Wehrmacht, and by the Flemish fascists for their political meetings, so accepting the directorship of that theater was definitely a political statement. After Belgium's liberation from the Nazis in September 1944, Sterkens was accordingly imprisoned in Antwerp as a Nazi collaborator, for eight-and-a-half months, and after that lost his civil rights for a further year. He spent the rest of his life socially isolated, and died just when he was to be officially rehabilitated.



Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Eisslinger) – Antwerp, Flemish Opera, 1925/6
Sadko – Antwerp, Flemish Opera, 1925
Die Zauberflöte – Antwerp, Flemish Opera, 1927
Paganini – Antwerp, Flemish Opera, 1927
Její pastorkyňa (Jenůfa) – Antwerp, Flemish Opera, 1927
Sly – Antwerp, Flemish Opera, 1929
Fidelio – Antwerp, Flemish Opera, 1929
Die tote Stadt – Antwerp, Flemish Opera, 1932
Anne-Marie – Antwerp, Flemish Opera, 1937
Daphne – Antwerp, Flemish Opera, 1939
Das Lied der Liebe – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Rigoletto – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Die Fledermaus – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
La campana sommersa – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Der fliegende Holländer – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Faust – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Parsifal (Knight) – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Vagabond king (composer Friml) – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
L'amico Fritz – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
I gioielli della madonna – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Friederike – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Sadko (Foma Nazaryich, Hindu Merchant) – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Les contes d'Hoffmann – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Beatrijs – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Prodaná nevěsta – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Tannhäuser (Heinrich, Walther) – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Der Rosenkavalier – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Het Mirakel (composer Veremans) – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Lohengrin – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Vlammend land (composer Atterberg) – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
La bohème (Leoncavallo) – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Herbergprinses (composer Blockx) – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Tiefland (Nando, Pedro) – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Salome (Narraboth) – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Madama Butterfly – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Quinten Massijs (Composer Wambach) – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Carmen (Remendado) – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Die toten Augen (Shepherd) – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Marieke van Nijmegen (Composer Uyttenhove) – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Der lustige Bauer – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Princess Sunshine – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Snegurochka – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
Tristan und Isolde (Seemann) – Antwerp, Flemish Opera
I want to thank Tom Silverbörg for the recording (Die tote Stadt).
I want to thank Georges Cardol for the picture.
Reference: Richard T. Soper Belgian opera houses and singers. The Reprint Company, Spartanburg, South Carolina, 1999.
The Record Collector, Volume 36, March 1991.

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