I came across Emiel Van Houwen when searching the interview database of Bruxelles nous Appartient/Brussels behoort ons toe. When typing the keyword yodel, one finds one hit, that leads to an interview with an anonymous interviewee, a Brusseleer. The voice is of an animated aged man who mostly speaks about his youth, the second world war and its aftermath, in a lightheartedly way. Near the end of the interview he mentions playing as a younger boy in the café of the neighhbours on a toy accordeon while yodeling. He demonstrates the yodel, and although somewhat rusty it is a quite touching performance. This spurred me in tracing the man, in search of the larger history behind the yodel he performed. Where did he learn it? How did he perform? What does it reveal about the singing culture in Brussels in the mid century? The director of BBOT/BNA gives me the name and address of Emiel, but warns me, the man was already old when the interview was conducted a decade ago, he may not live anymore.

When I call Emiel Van Houwen I talk to him and his wife. He is well, and faintly remembers the interview with BBOT/BNA. He is open for an interview, and although he may not get my motivations nor the contours of my project, which I explain rather badly - it’s the first time I contact somebody - he welcomes me in his home with open arms.


The interview with Emiel Van Houwen will lead me into the world of operette. It’s a world that I don’t know at all, apart from the clichés that live around it and that may have explained my dismissive attitude towards this lighter genre.

My first experience starts with listening to L’auberge du cheval blanc, by Ralph Benatzky. I am immediately struck from the start. The first two minutes of the ouverture contain a beautiful yodel aria, in operatic style, a sort of answer and call between the lead singer and the orchestra. I like this playful interaction between a human voice and the massive amplitude of the orchestra at its fullest, as if they were the mountains. The yodel seems from coming from far, as if the actress is approaching from backstage, and although adorned with the typical operatic virtuoso style, there’s roughness in it too. To me, with the little Bel Canto experience I have, I see the ‘other’ of the glissando style in the jumpy throat leaps that the singer pulls off. The rest of the operette makes me think more of old style movies, early Hollywood, quite catchy, dancy, and musical-like. I like the tunes. Interestingly, the first tune after the ouverture is the opening song ‘Adieu’. This makes a link between the yodeling and the theme of goodbye, distance, departure, but also arrival (the ‘inn’). This may be a nice coincidence. Perhaps yodeling and waving, the two main projects that I am involved in right now, are akin.

The first entry into the operette world is promising. I start to talk to people about this, and so I learn that Eric de Kuyper is a big operette fan. He would even like to direct an operette. Guy Dermul tells me that his parents were big operette fans and that Mieke Verdin did something for October with operette. Dirk Pültau gives me more references. He speaks of Adorno’s musical comments on the genre, and introduces me to La Belle Hélène, a comic opera, with a yodel scene at the end. Interesting that my first two yodel-experiences with operette come from scenes in the beginning (ouverture) or take me to the end (finale).


I have two versions in Itunes. One is downloaded from the Itunes-stores, one from La médiathèque. They are different, but both have features that can be of interest.



1-01 L’Auberge du Cheval Blanc - Introduction

5 L’Auberge du Cheval Blanc - Tyrolienne et dialogue-Arrivee de celestin

keywords, the mishmash van muzikale signaturen

benatzky heeft gewerkt bij een musical dirctor die veel Wagner heeft geënsceneerd. Connectie met Alpine like? Verder, hij gaat later na zijn exile in USA in Zwitserland wonen. Op website van Bentazky herinner ik me dat er ook stond dat het alpinisme moest gecombineerd worden met de moderne pulsaties van de moderne tijd, jazz, de trein (die ook op scène in de spectaculaire versie stond)

onderzoeksvragen: welke versie, uitvoering zou in de Brusselse Alhambra gestaan hebben?

Ik denk aan de operette zanger die ik via Evelyn had leren kennen, de ietwat gefrustreerde man. Wat zouden zijn herinneringe zijn, heeft hij de uitoveringin Brussel gezien, er een rol in gespeeld. Kent hij iemand die de ouverture zou kunnen zingen?


1-01 L’Auberge du Cheval Blanc - Introduction

5 L’Auberge du Cheval Blanc - Tyrolienne et dialogue-Arrivee de celestin