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By Onika Nkrumah-Lakhan
A surreal tale of unrequited love was the
spark that ignited the career of world
renowned Trinidadian soprano, Jeanine
De Bique. It was her sister's recording of
the Phantom of the Opera that captured
her imagination many years ago, and
later her voice caught the attention of
her school's choir director.
Classically trained at the prestigious
Manhattan School of Music in New York
and Theatre Basel, Switzerland. Jeanine
de Bique is now accustomed to gracing
the stage at the grandest Opera houses
across Europe; she even sang for the
Queen of Denmark at The Royal Danish
Jeanine's performances come to life with
raw emotion, and singing that emanates
from deep within. Her entire body is a ve-
hicle for the unfolding drama, often cap-
tivating her audience with mischievous
winks or erupting into maniacal laughter.
WOW - What does the Opera mean to
It's the opportunity to express my life
and emotions. It is a way to cherish his-
tory, travel, and learn of the past.
WOW - How did you get involved in
Music was always around me. My sis-
ters were part of a school choir. My
mother plays the piano, my grandmother
had a beautiful voice, my grandfather
whistled ... basic values of Opera were
part of my family upbringing.
WOW - Opera seems to be a European
dominated art form. Have you ever ex-
I have not experienced discrimination
personally. What I see, though, is an ex-
citing trend -- an emergence of new com-
positions written around contemporary
global themes, in which there is little op-
portunity for typecasting. This also re-
duces the opportunity for discrimination.
Directors are interested in what works
and what may be attractive to the audi-
ence. For example, I was cast as Juliet in
Romeo and Juliet, a role traditionally
played by white singers. The core
themes of angst and love were made
more poignant and made the opera
more relevant to the contemporary au-
dience. What is important is that I con-
tinue to demonstrate that I am
professional and that I bring something
distinctive to the performance ... younger
directors have very different points of
view. They care about your voice, as well
as your capabilities for fulfilling the re-
quirements of the particular role.
WOW - Describe the feeling of
It can be nerve-wracking, liberating and
exciting at the same time. It's the oppor-
tunity to present to the audience what
I've worked on and time to show myself
what I am capable of!
WOW - Is it difficult to memorize all
I am trained to memorize multiple songs
in different languages. I am used to it.
Nothing is difficult when you put your
mind to it.
WOW - How do you prepare for a
I eat a lot of carbs the night before, be-
cause there will be no heavy eating on
the day of a show. I do a yoga routine
about 2 hours before and I warm up
about an hour before showtime. I spend
time in deep meditation, thanking God,
the Universe and all my ancestors for
the gift that brought me to this point,
and we walk together on the stage. I am
WOW - You recently performed with
the National Steel Symphony Orches-
tra of Trinidad and Tobago at NAPA.
Tell us about that experience.
It was exhilarating to finally come home
and perform, since my last performance
here was in 2003. Performing classical
works with our national instrument was
even more rewarding. It was outstand-
ing, with a program that allowed for a
sustained connection with the audience.
The success of the performances was
also shaped by the musicianship of the
NSSO players, especially since they had
not heard some of the music before. The
collaboration with Maestro Jessel Mur-
ray was easy and flowing. I look forward
to doing more of this type of fusion.
WOW -- What was the best part of
your visit to T&T?
I am grateful and humbled to have been
invited by the Ministry of Culture to
come home to perform with our national
steel instrument, and collaborate with
beautifully talented musicians under the
baton of Maestro Jessel Murray. The col-
laboration was of the highest calibre;
easy, professional and inspirational.
These are a group of young people that
need to be celebrated. They showcase all
aspects of what the steel pan can do,
from percussion and classical music to
our calypso and folk music. They are a
true asset to having cultural exchanges
between countries, especially in Europe!
I can't wait for the recording and to per-
form with them again! Keep watch!
Thank you for having an interest in
young people such as myself and sharing
my story. I hope to be an inspiration to
other young people here in Trinidad and
Tobago and the rest of the Caribbean.
Remember to live beyond thoughts of
lack and limitation, and find the still place
within you that encourages creativity
and peace. You can follow me on my fan
page on Facebook, twitter @jfdebique
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