Preview: Mahler's Symphony No.2, Royal Albert Hall, London

'I always knew singing was my destiny'
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The Independent Culture

With Bernard Haitink conducting Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony, next Wednesday's Prom is a guaranteed hit, but the mezzo on stage - who just happens to be a Haitink discovery - will reinforce that promise. Christianne Stotijn got her break with him through standing in for Matthias Goerne in Mahler's Rückert-Lieder last year, and they've been collaborators ever since.

Statuesque, with red Pre-Raphaelite tresses, this young Dutch singer has followed a swift trajectory since her decision at 18 to become a professional singer. "Although I studied the violin at the conservatoire, I always knew this was my destiny," she says. "I always had a dramatic voice. When I went for my first audition, I had no songs to present - I just had that voice."

After six months she was sent to Udo Reinemann, and he remains her voice coach today. "He is like a painter," she explains. "It's not just technique - if I sing a song by Debussy, he will ask what colour I would give it, with what sort of pencil, thick or thin? And from that basis we would make each song a story - it was nothing about ego. That is why my heart is more in lieder than in opera - much though I love it." When she went to study with Janet Baker - her all-time heroine, who will be at next week's Prom - that lesson was bolstered by Baker's insistence on interrogating every song for emotional truth.

When Stotijn won a Borletti Buitoni award out of the blue, she was enabled to make her acclaimed debut disc of Schubert, Berg and Wolf lieder, and to plan her second - of Mahler's "Urlicht" - which Onyx will release this month. Clarity and strength are the virtues she employs in the service of her unceasing quest for colour, and she will approach her first Prom in that spirit.

How does she recharge her batteries? "By walking in the hills of Tuscany and Wales, alone. As my career takes off, that keeps me in contact with the earth."

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