Lyric Opera Of Chicago, Principal Horn

LYRIC OPERA OF CHICAGO: CANTABILE (adj) & (adv). (Music/Classical Music) (to be performed) in a singing style, i.e. flowingly and melodiously.

My years at the opera have given me a musical perspective that I never would have considered had I been solely performing in a symphonic environment. Playing at the opera is very much like chamber music but on a grander scale, with large distances between participants. I truly thrive in this type of collaboration. As musicians, we learn to react to our surroundings and managing the challenges of this complicated environment requires me to be very interactive. The demand to make sudden adjustments to stay with the stage can happen in a split second. Listening to the singer’s line to anticipate the pacing, balance and rhythmic subtleties, gauging spatial distances, and blending the sound with other instruments in the ensemble to keep an appropriate texture has made me a much better listener. One needs to be “in the moment” in order to truly fulfill your responsibilities to the art form. It keeps repeated performances of old favorites such as La Boheme, Tosca, Carmen, etc. quite fresh.

As a young musician at the tender age of 20, I had the privilege to work with Lyric’s Bruno Bartoletti, who opened my ears to understanding and producing the Italian sound, and cantabile phrasing. One needs to know the role of the horn at the moment. Are you a pitched percussionist creating rhythmic drive during a recitative or soaring through your instrument in a lyrical cantabile manner in an aria? Through the years, it has become instinctive. Sir Andrew Davis, the current Music Director at the Lyric Opera, has a keen ear for texture and balance, and has influenced me to expand my awareness of the role that I play in the opera. Just because I’m playing a note doesn’t mean that it’s important. Control, delicacy, elegant pianos and noble fortes have become de rigueur for my approach to the operatic horn.

I have had the privilege of working with the world’s greatest singers, who have also given me a wonderful idea of the cantabile style, pacing, control, contrast of tone color by expressing emotional content through their voices. These legendary singers-Pavarotti, Sutherland, Giaurov, Freni, Domingo, Fleming, Kraus, Heppner, Terfel, Graham, Morris, Kaufmann, TeKanawa, Pape, Galouzine, Dessay, Vickers, von Stade-have all been my inspiration. Night after night of being in an environment where your sound mingles and blends with the greatest voices of our time has been, and still is, an unforgettable experience.

~Jon Boen

Jon Boen, Photo Devon Cass
Jon Boen, Photo Devon Cass


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