Love is in the air – an interview with John Osborn

Osborn Tapia

So you don’t believe in true love? Have you become a bit cynical because your heart has been broken too often, or have you seen too many marriages end in divorce? So fairy-tales are not real and your tears are flowing for La Bohème only??

I know a remedy: meet John Osborn and the love of his life, Lynette Tapia.
Their love blossoms and glows as if they have only just met and yet they have been together for many years! They also have a daughter, the now eighteen-year-old multi-talented Anna.


I met them both on a horribly cold February day in 2013 with ice, snow and wind outside, but in the café Puccini where we met, my heart and soul were soon to be warmed.

Capriccio, DNO 2006

The lovely Lynette Tapia with her beautiful green eyes and shiny black hair is a celebrated singer as well and sometimes she manages to sing with her husband. In September 2006, they had their Amsterdam debut together in Capricio by Richard Strauss, as the Italian singers.


In October 2012, they both sang  in Verdi’s Rigoletto at Schloss Braunfels, a production of Opera Classica Europa, an organisation that presents operas at the most beautiful historical locations in Europe.

I love what Opera Classica Europa does and the way they do it. The location was enchanting, we were wearing real, historical costumes. Old-fashioned? Yes, definitely: old-fashioned beautiful. We didn’t have that much rehearsal time, but there was no need. There was nothing you really had to learn, everything being already in the music.

The role of the Duca is particularly suited to a high tenor. I have been a singer for 22 years. I am not a baritonal tenor but I can sing ever heavier roles. It depends on the location, of course, and it also matters who your conductor is, and whether he knows how to keep the orchestra in check. The music has been shifted to a higher pitch, the orchestras are playing louder, but you still have to rise above the orchestra and you have to be audible everywhere, even in the back rows. Add to that the fact that we tenors don’t sing in falsetto any more; today’s audience would not be appreciative.

I am from the generation that grew up with the three tenors, but a lot has changed since then. You can’t afford not to look good. Or not to be fit. When I was younger, I didn’t participate in sports and fitness, I thought it was a waste of time. But in a way, I think it is fair and good that we take care to look the part a bit more, for the public’s sake. Although it is still mainly (I hope?!) about the singing!


Directors? Are they really important?
Who ever heard of a director, say 50, 60 years ago? We knew who the singers were and that was all that mattered. The conductor, the orchestra, yes, but a director? We still speak of Tosca by Callas or Don Carlo by Corelli, but nowadays the name of the director is written in big, bold letters at the top of the poster, even before the composer! Many of the directors have also developed a somewhat perverse way of manipulating human feelings, which bothers me. Sometimes I think: do you really want to create something new? Then create something new! Write your own opera!

Carlo Rizzi (conductor), Pierre Audi (director), George Tsypin (sets), Dagmar Niefind (costumes), Jean Kalman (lighting design), Amir Hosseinpour (choreography), Willem Bruls (dramaturge)

I admire Pierre Audi very much and I really enjoy working with him. OK, after a few times you know the concept and you know it’s going to be very aesthetic, static too. But he has respect for the singers, we are more to him than just pawns in a game of chess.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Clari osborn"

I also have a great affinity with the work of Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier. I did Clari by Halèvy and Otello by Rossini with them, both in Zurich, and we had a lot of fun together. They work in a logical way and their productions are very well put together. Clari may have been updated, but everything is just right. The directors have a kind of sixth sense for what goes with the music, so their productions are very diverse.


Who are the really good conductors? The generation that has almost died out: Nello Santi, Claudio Abbado. But that doesn’t mean they are over, those good old days! I like Yannick Nézet-Séguin immensely, he understands the French style like no other. Unfortunately I have only worked with him once, in 2008 in Salzburg. We did Romeo et Juliette together and the performance was unforgettable! He liked my ‘French way’ of singing so much that he even invited his parents to the performance. For me that was one of the greatest compliments ever!

Pierre Audi (director), Paolo Carignani (conductor), George Tsypin (sets), Andrea Schmidt-Futterer (costumes), Jean Kalman (lighting), Kim Brandstrup (choreography), Klaus Bertisch (dramaturgy)

At the time of our conversation, Osborn is singing Arnold in the DNO production of Guillaume Tell. He first performed this role in the 2007 – 2008 season with the Accademia di Santa Cecilia Orchestra in Rome. After that we could admire him in this role in the ZaterdagMatinee (December 2012) and the general press called the performance a ‘historical event’. And now finally on stage. The difference?

“I have indeed performed the opera concertante a few times, with more or less cuts, so each time it was quite exciting to think which version we would be doing next. At the Matinee, the score was almost complete. As a singer, I have learned to act with my voice, but if I can actually show my feelings on stage as well, not only through my singing but also by the way I move, then that adds an extra dimension.

Is there anything you would like to say to your Dutch audience?
“This is the sixth time I work in Amsterdam. I always love coming back to visit this beautiful city. The people are so kind and welcoming. All of the friends I’ve made from The Dutch National Opera, the members of the chorus, the musical staff, and the production staff have all been so supportive of me and the talents I’ve been given. I am so grateful for the opportunities to perform here, and I truly feel like Amsterdam has become a second home for me. I very much look forward to returning to this unique and wonderful place again in the near future. Sincerely, John Osborn’.

Lynette Tapia and John Osborn in “Parigi o cara” from La Traviata Live at Schloss Braunfels, august 12 2018 :

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Photo’s: Hans Hijmering and Ruth Waltz

More John Osborn:

Ever heard of Clari by Halévy?


Whatever you may think of divas and divos, we need them. In one way or another, we all need ‘something’ in our lives. An idol or a hero that makes us forget our daily worries and enriches us with that touch of… glamour? Dreams that come true? Dreams that may come true? Dreams?

Much more important than that, especially for the less dreamy among us, is the fact that, thanks to the divos and the divas, we are given the opportunity to admire a great many new, unknown and forgotten works. Thanks to their status, they are the ones calling the shots in the (in this case) opera industry. So, especially at their request, operas that you would otherwise never be able to hear live, are not only programmed for the stage, but also released on DVD.

Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli performs during a rehearsal of the opera “Clari” by late French composer Jacques Fromental Halevy (1799-1862) at the opera house in Zurich May 20, 2008. Picture taken on May 20, 2008. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann (SWITZERLAND)

Thus, Clari, a totally forgotten opera by Jacques Fromental Halévy, we really owe to Cecilia Bartoli. She rediscovered the opera and it is thanks to her that it was produced.
This is not very surprising. The opera was composed for Maria Malibran and since La Bartoli has been very much into Malibran lately, it was to be expected that she would have another ‘Malibran delicacy’ in store for us.

Jacques Fromental Halévy, a few years back virtually unknown, is no longer a rarity. His La Juive now tours all the major opera houses and has even, in a brilliant production by Pierre Audi, visited Amsterdam (It’s not coming back. Why? Why so many dreadful productions and not this one? Who makes such idiotic decisions?).

But anyway: Clari? Has anyone ever heard of Clari? Forget about grand-opéra, because they are miles apart. Clari was premiered in the Théatre-Italien in Paris in 1828 and then disappeared from the stage. It is very light weight. But it’s such a delightful little gem!

Clari is a real opera semi-seria, so (a little) dramatic and (a lot) comic at the same time. The choice of this division is due to the excellent directors (Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier). And we get a happy ending.

If someone had told me that this was a recently rediscovered unknown Rossini, I would have believed it. But Cherubini, also, is never far away.

The staging reminds me most of pop art. And of Tom Wesselmann’s paintings: pink fridge, blue walls, pastel shades everywhere … The directors talk about ‘Foto-novella, of course there is something in that, but it is also strongly rooted in the Internet era.

What is it about? A poor but oh-so-beautiful country girl is cheated by a prince. He promises to marry her, but once at his court, he introduces her as his niece. In honour of her name day, a play is performed that confronts her with her past. She faints and she decides to return to her parental home. Her father shows her the door, but the prince travels after her with a marriage contract. All’s well that ends well. ‘
John Osborn is a really delightful Duca. His voice is supple and agile. His topnotes unparalleled. And he can act.

Deze afbeelding heeft een leeg alt-atribuut; de bestandsnaam is clari-b-en-o.jpg

Bartoli looks (the close-up era!) a bit old to portray a naive teenager. She seems more like a woman of the world than a village girl, but who cares? She sings the 3 octaves needed for the role in a more than adequate way and her acting is pleasant. What more do we want?

Is the opera original? No. Innovating? No. Masterpiece? No. But it is such great fun! Especially the Zurich productio

Jacques Fromental Halévy
Cecilia Bartoli, John Osborn, Eva Liebau, Oliver Wittmer, Giuseppe Scorsin, Carlos Chausson, Stefania Kaluza
Orchestra La Scintilla en het koor van van de Opernhaus Zürich olv Adam Fischer
Regie: Moshe Leiser en Patrice Caurier
Decca 0743382

Kent iemand Clari van Halévy?


Wat je ook niet van diva’s en divo’s denkt: wij hebben ze nodig. Op de een of andere manier hebben wij allemaal een ‘iets’ in ons leven nodig. Een ‘afgod’ of een ‘idool’ die ons onze dagelijkse zorgen doen vergeten en ons verrijken met dat vleugje… glamour? Dromen die uitkomen? Dromen die kunnen uitkomen? Dromen?

Veel belangrijker nog dan dat is het, zeker voor de minder dromerigeren onder ons, dat wij dankzij de divo’s en de diva’s ook ontzettend veel nieuwe, onbekende en vergeten werken kunnen bewonderen. Dankzij hun status hebben ze het vaak voor het zeggen in de (in dit geval) opera-industrie. Dus speciaal op hun eigen verzoek worden er opera’s geprogrammeerd die je anders nooit van je leven live zou kunnen horen. Laat staan dat het ooit op dvd zou worden uitgebracht.

Clari, een totaal vergeten opera van Jacques Fromental Halévy, hebben wij dan aan Cecilia Bartoli te danken. Zij heeft de opera herontdekt en dankzij haar kwam het tot de productie.

Heel erg verwonderlijk is het niet. De opera was gecomponeerd voor Maria Malibran en aangezien La Bartoli de laatste tijd helemaal “in Malibran” is geweest, was het te verwachten dat ze nog een “Malibran krent” voor ons in petto had.

Jacques Fromental Halévy, nog maar een paar jaar geleden niet meer dan een naam, is inmiddels geen rariteit meer. Zijn La Juive gaat tegenwoordig alle grote operahuizen rond en heeft zelfs, in een schitterende productie van Pierre Audi, ook Amsterdam aangedaan (het komt niet terug. Waarom?! Waarom zo veel afschuwelijkste producties wel en dit niet? Wie neemt zulke idiote beslissingen?).

Maar goed: Clari? Heeft iemand ooit van Clari gehoord? Vergeet de ‘grand-opéra’, want die is mijlenver hiervan verwijderd. Clari beleefde haar première in het Théâtre-Italien in Parijs in 1828 en verdween daarna van het toneel. Het is een niemendalletje. Maar wat een heerlijk niemendalletje!

Clari is een echte opera ‘semi-seria’, dus (een beetje) dramatisch en (een boel) komisch tegelijk. De keuze voor die verhouding is aan de voortreffelijke regisseurs te danken (Moshe Leiser en Patrice Caurier). En we krijgen een happy end.

Als iemand mij vertelde dat het een pas herontdekte onbekende Rossini was, had ik het zo geloofd. Maar ook Cherubini is nergens ver weg.

De enscenering doet mij het meeste aan pop-art denken. En aan de schilderijen van Tom Wesselmann: roze koelkast, blauwe muren, pasteltinten overal … De regisseurs hebben het over “Foto-novella”, daar zit natuurlijk ook wat in, maar het is natuurlijk ook sterk met beide benen in het internet-tijdperk verankerd.

Waar gaat het over? Een arm maar o zo mooi plattelandsmeisje wordt geschaakt door een prins. Hij belooft met haar te trouwen, maar eenmaal aan zijn hof introduceert hij haar als zijn nicht. Ter ere van haar naamdag wordt er een toneelstuk opgevoerd dat haar met haar verleden confronteert. Zij valt flauw en besluit terug te keren naar haar ouderlijk huis. Haar vader wijst haar de deur, maar de prins reist haar achterna met een huwelijkscontract. Eind goed, al goed.

John Osborn is een werkelijk heerlijke Duca. Zijn stem is soepel en wendbaar. Zijn topnoten doet niemand hem na. En hij acteert voortreffelijk.

Bartoli oogt (het close-up  tijdperk!) een beetje oud voor de naïeve teenager. Haar uitstraling doet ook eerder een vrouw van de wereld dan een plattelandsmeisje vermoeden, maar ach … Zij zingt de bijna drie octaven omvattende rol voortreffelijk, acteert aanstekelijk en is leuk om te zien. Wat willen we dan meer?

Is de opera oorspronkelijk? Nee. Innoverend? Nee. Meesterwerk? Nee. Maar hoe ontzettend LEUK! Zeker in de productie uit Zürich


Jacques Fromental Halévy
Cecilia Bartoli, John Osborn, Eva Liebau, Oliver Wittmer, Giuseppe Scorsin, Carlos Chausson, Stefania Kaluza
Orchestra La Scintilla en het koor van van de Opernhaus Zürich olv Adam Fischer
Regie: Moshe Leiser en Patrice Caurier
Decca 0743382

Meer Halévy:

LA JUIVE: discografie

LA JUIVE Tel Aviv 2010

Anathema over en weer in grootse La Juive