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John van Kesteren (Tenor)

Born: May 4, 1921 - Den Haag, the Netherlands
Died: June 11, 2008 - Jupiter, Palm Beach, Florida, USA

The Dutch tenor, John [or Jon] van Kesteren, wanted to become originally electrical engineer, and then decided to train his voice. His studies took place at the conservatories of Hague and others with Lothar Wallerstein and with the bass Willem Ravelli. He made his debut in 1947 in Scheveningen as Italian singer in the Rosenkavalier. After his debut he continued his studies with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.

John van Kesteren sang then with Operettengesellschaften in Holland, also at the radio and at the theatre of Utrecht. After further training by Vera Schwarz in Salzburg he came in 1951 to the Komische Oper Berlin. From 1953 he was committed to Städtische Oper Berlin, and in 1958 he became the first lyric tenor in the theatre of Gärtnerplatz in München, at which he had a very long career. He remained there for more as seventeen years. As a lyric tenor with a remarkable range in the upper register he specialized in roles as: Platée of Rameau, Le Comte Ory of Rossini and Chapelou in Le postillon de Longjumeau of Adam.

Since 1956 John van Kesteren participated several times at the Salzburg Festival, among other things in 1964-1965 as Tanzmeister in Ariadne on Naxos by Richard Strauss, in 1967 as Dancairo in Carmen and again in 1982-1983 as a house yard master of the Marschallin in the Rosenkavalier. In 1954 he appered as a guest for the first time at the Vienna State Opera. Further appearances at the Deutschen Oper am Rhein on Düsseldorf-Duisburg, at the State Operas of Munich and Stuttgart, at the opera houses of Cologne, Frankfurt a.M., Geneva and Zürich, at the La Scala in Milan, at the Festival in the Baroque theatre of Drottningholm, at the City Centre Opera of New York Opera, in Amsterdam and Brussels, in Copenhagen, in Rio de Janeiro and at the Teatro Colón Buenos Aires, at the opera houses of Boston, Cincinnati and Dallas. In 1981 he participated in the residents of Munich State Opera in the premiere of the opera Lou Salomé by Giuseppe Sinopoli.

In later years John van Kesteren sang also a wide and versatile concert repertoire, particularly as an outstanding J.S. Bach and W.A. Mozart interpreter, with his lyric and expressive tenor voice. In a 30 year period he participated as the Evangelist in J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) in over 400 performances, from London to Moscow, and from Buenos Aires to Tokyo, criss-cross through all continents. On the stage he particularly excells in the W.A. Mozart repertoire, in operas of the Italian Belcanto masters and in works of Benjamin Britten.

Recordings: MMS (Belmonte in Entführung us dem Serail), Heliodor, Ariola (Postillon de Lonjumeau of A. Adam), DGG (Palestrina by H. Pfitzner, Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss, Die Kluge by Carl Orff), Decca (Leonore by Paër); numerous Oratorio performances, which include, among other things, Carmina Burana of C. Orff on Eurodisc.

Source: Operissimo Website, English translation by Aryeh Oron (June 2001); Dutch Divas Website; The Artist
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (June 2001)

John van Kesteren: Short Biography | General Discussions

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Eric Ericson


BWV 244 [1st , Evangelist]

Eugen Jochum


BWV 244 [2nd], BWV 244 [3rd], BWV 245

Rafael Kubelík


BWV 232

Karl Richter


BWV 78, BWV 147

Helmuth Rilling


BWV 205, BWV 233-236

Hermann Scherchen


BWV 245

Links to other Sites

John van Kesteren (Dutch Divas)


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