Ernest van Dijck (1861-1923).

  • Profession: Tenor, Lawyer, Journalist La Patrie. Professor Conservatories Antwerp and Brussels.
  • Relation to Mahler: 
  • Correspondence with Mahler: 
  • Born: 02-04-1861 Antwerp, Belgium
  • Died: 31-08-1923 Berlaarhof, Pastorijstraat, Berlaar, Belgium. Aged 62.
  • Buried: 00-00-0000 

Also: Dyck.

Mentioned in diary Natalie Bauer-Lechner (1858-1921).

Ernest Marie Hubert van Dijck was a Belgian dramatic tenor who was closely identified with the Wagnerian repertoire. Success in Vienna and United States.

A native of Antwerp, where he was educated in a Jesuit school, van Dijck studied both law and philosophy in Leuven before deciding to become an opera singer. The notary under whom he was studying introduced him to the conductor Joseph Dupont. He became a journalist, working for ‘l’Escaut’ in Antwerp and ‘la Patrie’ in Paris.

From his arrival in Paris and debut at the Concerts Lamoureux in the first act of Tristan und Isolde he studied with Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894) and became a close friend of the composer. The singer repaid Chabrier by advocating for performances of his operas in Karlsruhe and other places where he appeared. During the years appearing at the Lamoureux concerts, van Dijck sang in La Damnation de Faust, fragments from Sigurd, Tristan und Isolde, Die Walkyrie, Les Sept péchés capitaux of Goldschmidt, and the premiere of le Chant de la Cloche by Vincent d’Indy (1851-1931).

In Paris he studied singing with Saint-Yves Bax before making his stage debut at the Théâtre Éden on 03-05-1887; the occasion marked the French premiere of Lohengrin. Intensive study with Felix Mottl (1856-1911) followed before he appeared as Parsifal at the Bayreuther Festspiele in 1888, with great success. The intensity of his acting was praised in particular and he was invited back to Bayreuth on repeated occasions, where he became a proponent of the Sprechgesang style of operatic vocalism.

Ernest van Dijck (1861-1923), Parsifal at Bayreuther Festspiele.

The Vienna State Opera soon engaged him, and he remained with the company for a decade, during which time he created the title-role in Jules Massenet (1842-1912)‘s Werther (16-02-1892). He also made guest appearances throughout Europe; among these, he featured in the world premiere of Wilhelm Kienzl (1857-1941)‘s Der Evangelimann in London in 1897.

Van Dijck made his American debut on 29-11-1898, singing Tannhäuser at the Metropolitan Opera. He stayed in New York City until the 1901-1902 season, singing not only Wagner roles but also parts in French operas.

Having made his debut at Covent Garden in 1891, in 1907 he undertook a season of German opera there. In 1914 he appeared in the first Parisian performances of Parsifal. For the Musica journal, n° 13, October 1903 he wrote an article on ‘Richard Wagner et l’interprétation’.

Van Dijck sang in the first performance of Debussy’s L’enfant prodigue in Paris on 27-07-1884. With Camille de Roddaz, he provided the libretto for Massenet’s ballet set in Courtrai (‘Légende mimée et dansée en un acte’) Le Carillon, for the Vienna Opera in February 1892.

He appeared regularly at the Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels in 1894, where his repertoire included Wagner (Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, Tristan) and Massenet (Werther, Des Grieux).

Ernest van Dijck (1861-1923). Belgium stamp 1997. 17 Belgian Francs.

Van Dijck made a few acoustic records in the early 1900s (for Pathé, Fonotipia and Homophone) which show a voice prematurely past its prime after a dozen years of hard, declamatory use in heavy Wagnerian parts. He later withdrew from cultural life and worked as a businessman. He died in Berlaar in 1923.

He was awarded several civic honours: Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, orders of Léopold de Belgique, François-Joseph d’Autriche, and Saint-Stanislas de Russie, the lion de Zaeringhen, of Baden, the star of Romania.

The South-West Brabant Museum in Halle has a collection on his life and work.

  • 1886 Bayreuth: Parsifal
  • 1888 Vienna: Vienna State Opera
  • 1898 New York: Tannhauser, New York Metropolitan Opera (MET)
  • 1890 New York: Siegmund
  • 1892 Bayreuth: Parsifal
  • 1894 Steinbach: Van Dijck is mentioned by Gustav Mahler in a letter to Arnold Berliner (1862-1942). (10-07-1894)
  • 1896 Paris: Tannhauser
  • 1899 Bayreuth: Parsifal
  • 1905 Paris: Tristan
  • 1914 Bayreuth: Parsifal
  • 1923 Berlaar: Died.

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