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Interview: Lynn John talks about A Secret Never to Be Told


Lynn John was born and educated in Wales and now lives in Auckland, New Zealand. He is a writer of screenplays, stage-plays, television series for children and parents, novels, television drama series, short films, language and drama textbooks, travel articles, opera librettos, and a children’s television animation series.


Lynn is an opera singer with New Zealand Opera and he also trains male voice choirs. He was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship to record indigenous music in the Pacific. Lynn talks to NZ Booklovers.


What inspired you to write A Secret Never to Be Told?

Two years before I had my heart by-pass operation, I was rehearsing the music for my cover role as Ferrando in Opera New Zealand’s production of Verdi’s ‘Il Trovatore’, with the conductor of the opera, Eliano Mattiozzi.

Eliano was an Italian who was living in New Zealand and we were rehearsing in his house in Auckland. At the end of the rehearsal, when the accompanist left, Eliano invited me into the kitchen for a coffee. We had become friends over the months of rehearsing. He made two coffees, picked up his mug, sipped, and casually asked me a question.

“You’re a writer, as well as a singer, aren’t you?”

“Yes, “I said.

“What would you say if I told you Mozart didn’t die on December 5, 1791? That he faked his death and lived on?” he said.

“I can think of a number of reasons why Mozart may have faked his death,” I said, “… his debts … the Freemasons he’d alienated … his affairs … his wife’s liaisons … but if he’d lived on, you couldn’t have kept him quiet. He would have composed music.”

“He did and he didn’t,” he said. “He composed with and through someone else.”

“Who?”

“Rossini.”

“Gioacchino Rossini?”

“Yes. Gioacchino Rossini, the man who wrote thirty-nine operas in nineteen years.”

“Thirty-nine operas …”

“… in nineteen years. Think about that. One man!” he said., and he leaned in close, “or was it two?” “But you’re suggesting much more than that. You’re saying that that other, was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. A dead man …”

“… a year before Rossini was born.”

“So why? Why Mozart?”

“Because of Mozart’s desperate need to disappear. To die in order to live.”

“And …?”

“Their music …”

“Their music?”

“… especially their operas.”

“You’ve studied their …”

Eliano placed a hand on my shoulder and gently eased me onto a chair, then sat opposite me, close. “From 1982 to 1995,” he said, “I was Professor of Music at Conservatorio Statale di Musica di Salerno, and at Conservatorio di Musica Giovanbattista Martini di Bologna …”

“I wasn’t questioning your qualifications, Eliano,” I protested, “… I was simply asking about the two …”

“… I know,” he said. “But I need to tell you this. Because, in that time in Italy, I conducted productions of Mozart’s ‘Marriage of Figaro’ and Rossini’s ‘Barber of Seville’, and, in the process of learning the scores, living inside the scores, over weeks, months, I started to see the similarities - in their harmonies … their colours … their tempi … their sonorities … even their pauses … and then I looked closely at other operas - Rossini’s ‘The Thieving Magpie’, Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’, Rossini’s ‘Cinderella’ ... and I just knew.”

“You just knew …”

“Yes,” he said, and he sat back in his chair. “So, I wondered if you might be interested in writing their story.”

“… you wondered if I might be interested …”


What research was involved?

For the next two years, I researched the evidence to support Eliano’s claim, his assertion, by reading and by talking. One year focussing on Mozart, one year focussing on Rossini. But then, suddenly, tragically, during that time, Eliano died of a heart attack. Without warning.

I finished my research just before my heart operation, and was looking around for someone I would be happy with, to write the screenplay, using my research material. Without success.

And five weeks after the operation I wrote the opening lines of the “Maestro” screenplay. And the words poured out of me. I couldn’t stop them coming. It was like they were already there, sitting in my brain, and all I had to do was let them out. Six weeks later, I finished the first draft. It was a Friday. The next morning, I started on my next story cum screenplay. And that pattern, that condition, that obsession, that disease, has repeated itself now, over and over, ever since. For more than twenty years.


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

I wrote every day, at least each morning, including weekends, until I finished the first draft. This took me six weeks. I was driven.


Obviously, music features significantly in your novel, so if a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name some songs you would include.

A selection of music from “Maestro” and “A secret never to be told”


An improvised dance of piccolo and flute (or piano)

Bach’s ‘Well Tempered Clavier’ - piano

A Bach fugue – played Bach style and Mozart style – piano

Carolina’s aria from Cimarosa’s ‘Il matrimonio segreto’ – piano and voice

Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11, "Turkish March", in A major, K. 331 – piano

Mozart’s ‘Concerto No.21 in C major’ - piano

‘Chi disprezza gl’infelici’ from Rossini’s ‘Ciro in Babilonia’ – piano and voice

‘Mi rivedrai, ti rivedrò’ refrain from Rossini’s ‘Tancredi’ – piano and voice

A medley from Rossini’s early operas (pre 1815 - pre ‘Elizabetta’) – piano

Mozart’s ‘Eine kleine nachtmusik’ - piano

‘Bell’ alme generose’ from Rossini’s ‘Elisabetta’ – piano and voice

“Inutile e quell pianto”, duet from Act I of Rossini’s “Otello”– piano and voices

‘Una voce poco fa’ from Rossini’s ‘Il barbiere di Siviglia’ – piano and voice

Introduction to Rossini’s ‘Il Viaggio à Reims’ - piano

An aria from Rossini’s ‘Semiramide’ – piano and voice

A male-voice church choir singing in Latin

An extract from Mozart’s ‘Requiem’ – ‘Kyrie’ perhaps

Mozart’s ‘Eine kleine nachtmusik’ - piano

A horn extract on a high ‘D’ from Mozart’s ‘Concerto for Horn and Orchestra’

Extract from ‘Der holle rache’ aria from Mozart’s ‘Die Zauberflote’

Overture from Rossini’s ‘La Gazza Ladra’

Cenerentola’s rondo, ‘Nacqui all’affano’, from Rossini’s ‘Cenerentola’


If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead character?

Penelope Cruz, Anthony Hopkins, Javier Barden. Stanley Tuccii, Florence Pugh, and Christoph Waltz …


What did you enjoy the most about writing A Secret Never to Be Told?

Living for a moment in the lives and in the music of Wolfgang and Gioacchino, and revelling in the heady freedom of creating them how I wanted to create them, until I reaching the point where they took over the story and decided what they would do.


What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

I started the next writing project: a series of sequenced blogs, entitled “The day I died,” the next day, after the New Zealand Ministry of Social Development informed me and my family, by email, that I was dead, and that they were therefore discontinuing my Superannuation payments.


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

“The Revenger” by Rory Clements, because I love historical drama and this is part of a compelling, believable, well-told series of books set in the time of Elizabeth 1.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

Get the novel, “A secret never be told” or my screenplay version of it, “Maestro”, made into a film: and my novel, “Boyo.” out there, widely distributed as a novel, and/or made into a film.


More information at www.lynnjohn.com


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