(updated February 2011)
Robert Zuidam was born on September 23rd 1964 in Gouda, the Netherlands, and studied composition with Philippe Boesmans and Klaas de Vries at the Conservatory of Rotterdam. In 1989 he was a Composition Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center in Massachussets, USA, where he studied with Oliver Knussen and Lukas Foss. He was awarded the Koussevitzky Composition Prize for Fishbone, a work for wind instruments and piano, and a Leonard Bernstein Scholarship enabled him to return to Tanglewood as a student. After various performances of his work on the Festival of Contemporary Music, he returned to Tanglewood as a teacher in 1999, 2001 and '03, a.o. as Artist in Residence with financial support of the Velmans Foundation. In 2010, Zuidam taught and lectured at Harvard University as Erasmus Professor, and was awarded the Kees van Baaren-Prize in The Hague, for his opera Rage d'amours.
The core of Zuidam’s compositional activities lies in the field of vocal music, particularly that of the musictheatre. It was Hans Werner Henze, who made Zuidam aware of his potential as an opera-composer and -librettist, and commissioned him to create a full-length opera for the Biennale für Neues Musiktheater in Munich, Germany. This resulted in Freeze, an opera based on the story of the Patricia Hearst-kidnap, which was realized in 1994 in a co-production with the Holland Festival and the Staatstheater Braunschweig. Soprano Susan Narucki performed the leading role of the piece, that prompted Klaus Umbach, music-critic of Der Spiegel to label Zuidam as “ein genialischer Hund”.
A second opera, Rage d'amours, was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and was premiered in August 2003 at Tanglewood, with the much acclaimed soprano Lucy Shelton as leading lady. Also on this occasion, the press responded with enthusiasm. The New York Times wrote: "a formidable work... a score that keeps you hooked... with Rage d'amours Mr. Zuidam announces himself as a composer to reckon with". Rage d'amours, which portrays the turbulent relationship of Johanna the Insane and Philip the Handsome, received its European premiere in June 2005 during the Holland Festival in Amsterdam, in a double-bill with Zuidam’s McGonagall-Lieder, with Claron McFadden, Barbara Hannigan and Young-Hee-Kim performing the leading roles, in a staging by Guy Cassiers. A new production of Rage d'amours will be premiered early in 2012 in Germany by director and choreographer Nanine Linning.
But, as stated before, the focal point of his compositional output is targeted at vocal music. The McGonagall-Lieder (1997-2000) for colorature-soprano and ensemble, Pancho Villa (1988-'90) voor mezzo-soprano and piano, Nella Città Dolente (1998) for vocal octet and particularly Calligramme/il pleut (1991, rev. 2009), for two female voices a cappella, belong to Zuidam’s most frequently performed works.
He is currently working on a Requiem, for the Nederlands Kamerkoor and the ASKO-Schönberg Ensemble, and on the Canciones del alma, a large scale work for soprano and chamber-orchestra on poems by San Juan de la Cruz. Besides his work as a composer, Zuidam is also active as an essayist on music, a.o. for the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad. Zuidam’s music is published by Albersen, in The Hague.