Barbara Veenemans
South African Soprano
"The singer with Joie de Vivre"

 

Barbara Veenemans as Hanna Glawari in Pact's production of The Merry Widow - 1977

 

BARBARA'S SINGING CAREER AT A GLANCE
Barbara Veenemans can be regarded as one of South Africa's most leading sopranos who made an unforgettable impact in the many operas, operettas and musicals she peromed in. Now that she has retitired after a lavish career of 45 years, we will always remember the small and sweet soprano where she filled the opera stage with ecstatic energy, keeping her audiences in the palm of her hand.
 
It is as though the Veenemans-soprano voice cannot easily be described. Every Veenemans soprano has a natural voice that can be adapted to almost any fach, style and genre. This is really a very unique talent. Barbara has a natural full lyrical voice, with strong dramatic high notes that she could adapt to suit any roll and character.
 
Barbara was furthermore a versatile and intelligent actress and comedian and could make any role unique. Being such an excellent actress, she was casted in many character roles and it was expected of her to change her voice colour to suit a certain roll or fach. Her lyrical qualities came to the fore in roles such as Hanna Glawari in Franz Lehar’s operetta, The Merry Widow and in the role of Saffi in Johan Strauss’ operetta The Gypsy Baron.
 
On the concert stage she could exhibit her full potential and repertoire. There she could choose what she wanted to sing and sang many arias from the lyric, dramatic and coloratura repertoire. She not only sang in the small concert hall, but she also sang in the great auditoriums of Southern Africa with full symphony orchestras. As concert artist, Barbara toured through Southern Africa and enchanted her audiences with her beautiful singing and her entertaining acting.
 
She especially showcased her versatility when she was asked to sing the role of Annie Oakley in the Musical Annie Get your Gun, a roll that demanded a different sound from the voice. She always says, she is the only opera singer she knows who sang the roll of Annie Oakley.
 
Every stage roll was a challenge for her. No roll was too big or too small. She mentions that her favourite and most successful roll in her 45 year career was that of Adele in Johan Strauss’ operetta Die Fledermaus.  It was a roll that suited her perfectly, where she could showcase her comic acting and virtuosic singing with aplomb. She trilled the Pretoria and Johannesburg audiences and critics especially with her version of the aria, Mein Herr Marquis.
 
The roll of Susanna in Mozart’s opera the Marriage of Figaro (regarded as one of the most challenging and longest soprano rolls in the repertoire) was definitely also one of Barbara’s most successful highlights of the career. She had critics raving about the “new opera-find”. 
 
Barbara was especially a Mozart exponent and a master legato singer. She was regarded as the perfect Mozart singer. Subsequently, she was invited to further her career in Glyndebourne, but due to family responsibilities she declined the offer. 
 
But the one roll she always wanted to sing but never got the change to do is the roll of Eliza Doolittle in the musical My Fair Lady.
 
Aletta Greyling provides a perfect summary of Barbara’s character in a newspaper article with the heading SMALL BARBARA WITH HUGE ENTHUSIASM [translated from Afrikaans to English, newspaper and date unknown]
"... Barbara loves the “angel-with-the-sting” rolls probably because she is a bit like them. Full of teasing and laughter. But she is not afraid to speak her mind. She really has a fools-rush-in-where-angles-fear-to-tread attitude. On stage we got to know her as a comedian with a golden voice and a light-hearted character that can effectively adapt to her rolls. She is a small woman with huge enthusiasm and a voice that compliments that enthusiasm. Her singing was her hobby. Barbara says that she does not have a prima donna personality or temperament. There is however sometimes a bit of lightning coming from her side but that has nothing to do with artistic spirit ..."
 
 

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