Tuesday, 28 January 2014
Gérard Korsten (popularly known as Gé) (6 December 1927 – 29 September 1999) was a South African opera tenor and actor who had a great influence on Afrikaans culture.
Born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands as the youngest of eight children, Korsten and his family emigrated to South Africa when he was nine years old. He married Elna Burger and had five children, among them renowned conductor and violinist Gérard Korsten.
Initially he worked as an electrician, but from the age of 20, started singing in choirs. However, he received his first formal vocal training in 1952, when he was well into his 20s, studying under Adelheid Armhold at the South African College of Music.
In 1955 he moved to Pretoria, where he was one of the founder members of the Pretoria opera company. In 1956, he debuted as Canio in Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.
Korsten won a bursary to study in Vienna in 1962, where he received tuition under Judith Hellwig. During this period he had the opportunity to perform in Vienna and Munich, but he never sang professionally outside South Africa, mainly due to family considerations. It was only in 1970 that Korsten sold his business to devote himself to full-time singing. In the course of his operatic career, Korsten appeared on stage more than 3,000 times, playing 23 roles in most of the major operas.