Conversation with Tania Kross

Tania Kross in conversation with Giovanca Ostiana, 20 November 2023

[GO:] Thank you all for being here today.

[TK:] I can’t stop shaking.

Same here. Well, first of all, you look wonderful!

Thank you.

This [pointing at the audience] represents you, right? I haven’t been to the Johannes Vermeer Award ceremony before, but I believe this is the first time that the laureate himself does something on stage. This is typical of you. You must have thought “I’m not just going to sit there and do nothing.”

There is a stage and I’m going for it!

This is so typical of you. We’ll get back to that in a while, but I think you also like to have things your way. This is typical of you. I’m honoured to be here. That’s also because of you, because you invited me.

The great thing is that we know each other even before you became Giovanca and I became Tania. That’s why I thought it would be nice to have a conversation with you tonight… we’ve known each other for a very long time.

Absolutely. I was so smiling in the audience. To hear this piece of music in Papiamentu, I couldn’t be prouder. You are so radiant, what you sing has a lot of meaning. You use so much power and beauty. You should really know that we [community of Curaçao, ed.] are incredibly proud of you.

Thank you.

[The conversation is interrupted.] Personal video messages from friends, family and colleagues of Tania are displayed.]

Tania reacts surprised, happy and moved: “Guys, this is no nice!’”

[Photos are displayed. Tania (aged 17) holding a diploma. A picture of Tania while joining the music conservatory in Utrecht. A picture of Tania with her first band called ‘The frontier’.]

That was a heavy metal band, in fact. Yes, guys, I’m quite versatile.

I tried to arrange all this secretly while I had you on the phone a hundred times. Just last night. So, I hope we were able to surprise you.

Absolutely. One hundred percent. This is so nice.

These are all people who mean a lot to you who can’t be here tonight.

This is my tribe.

But you actually also have a tribe right here [referring to the audience, ed.], because there are also people here who have meant a lot to you. Maybe you can highlight a few because you didn’t come alone, did you?

I also have to say that I invited a number of people who might have thought: Tania? Long time no see. But I want you to know that you really did mean something to me. For my career. And unleashed something in the ease I have on stage. I’m talking about my teachers and the people I’ve worked with. I’ve always said that what I need to do in my life is surround myself with very good people and learn from them. By doing that, I will always keep moving forward. That’s why I wanted to gather in this room tonight all those people from whom I have learned, from whom I have gained a lot of expertise. But not only that, also as a human being. Because each of you – and I’m talking about the conductors, Ed Spanjaard being one of them, but also Ivo Meinen and Jurjen Hempel – has always given me space. You have given me music, and a choice: Tania here it is, take it, use it at your discretion but please be authentic when making music.

I’m also talking about the people who have made very beautiful music for me. Like Bob Zimmerman. We’ve known each other for so long. Bob is also the king of the medleys. Ron Ford is here too, he arranged for me at the very beginning of my career. I want to thank you all. People often have no idea how much work it takes to really get the essence of the music out for a voice. You have taken my my extravagant ideas seriously. Every timer I said: I want it like this, I’m sure it will work, Bob would confirm: OK, Tania, will do. And it actually worked. So thank you for that, Bob. Thank you.

Over the years, I’ve been able to stand on beautiful stages. Opera stages, together with colleagues. Some of them are joining us today. I see the magnificent Charles Hens. We sang so much Carmen [the opera, ed.] together, so many times! First at Pierre Audi. He’s here, hello Pierre. You know Pierre, he’s really strict. And I really love that about him. If someone is strict and precise with me, I know that they don’t do that because they don’t like me, but because they know that they want to get the best out of me. I am very grateful for that. Pierre taught me exactly how to be and how hard I have to work for my profession. You are part of a larger whole. Obviously, I’m there at the front by myself, but I’m not singing alone. I’m singing with my musicians. You guys played really well [addressing the musicians on stage]. I’ve already told you, but I’m very grateful that you took the time to be here today and share this evening with me. I’m really grateful for you.

I know you like to be in control, and I’ve already surprised you. But I still have a very small surprise. You just mentioned a few colleagues, and if only to get an idea of how you were as a student in a few seconds, I have a video message from two colleagues.

[A video message is shown from two colleagues of Tania with whom she shared her study time. The love between the two has blossomed under Tania’s watchful eye. It’s about how well Tania was always prepared during the lessons at the music conservatory and that the teachers took her as an example for the rest.]

This is so nice. They’re talking about love, and I need to talk about the love of my life, too. That’s my husband Henk-Jan. Without Henk-Jan, our two beautiful children Adam and David would not have been there. I’ve been told so many times: don’t have children, it will ruin your career. But in fact, motherhood has added to my careers, because I’ve learned to say no. I’ve learned to make choices about what is important to me and my family. People said the same about moving to Curaçao. But since I live in Curaçao, my career is still skyrocketing.

What I do like is that I have always felt very welcome here in the Netherlands on all stages. I have been given every opportunity to perform on stages in the Netherlands and abroad. Feeling at home on stage is very important. Then you start to feel free. It doesn’t matter if I’m going to sing or not, I can always walk into the concert hall and feel at home backstage. It is an extended family, I am so welcome there. I also want other musicians to feel the same on stage. I also want to make this happen on Curaçao.

We mentioned this a little bit earlier. You have a dream, and big plans. You are a woman on a mission. You are no matter what when it comes to making crossovers, making music accessible to a wide audience and also to children. Let’s zoom in on Curaçao. Where your roots lie, where you live and where you operate from. We have beautiful images – you took care of that yourself – and maybe it’s nice to take us with you.

I wanted to share these pictures with you. This is the Theatre on Curaçao. It’s a little apocalyptic. Unfortunately, there are more places that look like this in the world now. We have not had a theatre for 22 years, and in 2016 the empty building burned down. Now that my life is set in Curaçao, new and established talents ask me where they should perform. How can a light shine on them if this is the theatre?

How do you take care of that yourself when you have to perform?

If I have to perform myself, I have to spend a lot of money to make an outdoor stage. I want to invest the money attached to the Johannes Vermeer Award in the room that you now see on the images. It belongs to an old monastery where elderly people are cared for and there, we discovered a small theatre there. It was used as storage for many years and now it has been revived. Work has been done on the safety of the room, but there are still loose shelves. I can’t change the walls because it’s a monument. My technical team – with whom I have worked for a long time, they too are joining us today – has promised to help me provide the hall with a backdrop, sound, everything you can think of to make it a worthy stage. Then we can give the people of Curaçao a nice place to be in the spotlight.

I’ve been an ambassador of the learning orchestra here in the Netherlands for a long time, but I am also the initiator and ambassador of the learning orchestra on Curaçao. We have helped almost a thousand children on Curaçao, Aruba, Bonaire and also on the other islands with musical instruments at school. We started at my old primary school, where we gave the children an instrument. If something is a success – and it is, the learning orchestra is just a fantastic product – then it is going to grow. But as it grows, you also need more money for teachers and all that. We have too little of that, so I also want to invest part of the award money in these young children. Children who attend concerts, but also those who make their own music. I want to invest in the teachers who have to teach them during school hours.

Mrs. Blokker is here with us, she has been to our school and has seen all these children [on the images, ed.] playing instruments. It gives me so much hope for the future. If you give a child an instrument, it is a huge gain. For the island and for development.

At different levels, not just musically.

At different levels. I dream big. As a child on Curaçao, I dreamed of becoming an opera singer and now I’m here. Now I’m sitting here dreaming of building a theatre for Curaçao.

People might wonder who this big stage is going to be for.

I’m nothing special on Curaçao. There are hundreds of Tania’s out there. And they come to me to ask what they should and can do. I have to tell them I don’t know. You don’t just build a theatre, I need your help. I now have a piece of land at the airport where I intend to build a theatre. I have 18 months to get all the funding right. I will do my utmost. Thank you.

[The audience applauds.]

I think there are a lot of people in the room who support you and, in a while, will ask you how they can contribute. Because I understand the award money is not enough.

No, I can’t build a theatre with a hundred thousand euros, I’m sure you all understand that. But I can restore the small theatre and give the people who are now theatre makers the opportunity to develop. Then they will be ready for when this theatre comes along. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by a very good team, people who have pledged to help. They are experts. Dedicated people with knowledge and skills. I’ve also talked to major parties in the Netherlands to find out how they feel about all this. Because I not only need money, but also a lot of knowledge. And the commitment that that I’m not on my own. Receiving this award has given me a serious boost. I holds good cards in my hand and now it’s time to play.

The passion oozes from this chair, you are a fantastic ambassador but how about you… So, imagine this … God himself comes down and promises to fix the theatre. You don’t have to do it all. What dreams do you still have for yourself? I mean Tania’s dreams. Not those of your children or any other people.

Assuming that everything is in order, I would very much like to sing a number of roles in the area where I live [Curaçao and South America, ed.], I also speak Spanish. And also join hands with the Latin American region. I recently went to Venezuela and gave master classes at the Teresa Carreño Theatre and at the Opera Company. I found out that I can make myself very useful and that I can share the knowledge I have of opera and works in Europe. I want to transfer that knowledge and I also want to sing several beautiful roles.

I myself am also a product of education, a product of someone who has seen me and given me opportunities. I have seized those opportunities with both hands, and I feel a responsibility to create those opportunities for others because it is important for our profession.

Again, we’re incredibly proud of you. You do it your own way. You participate in the Masked Singer, next thing you are a jury member. The sky is the limit. We really enjoyed your presence today and I think we can all stand up and give Tania a very warm applause.

  • Group 2 Copy Tania Kross
  • Group 2 Copy Jury Report
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