‘Since I became a celebrity, everyone wants to know everything about me’

‘Haha! Puccini. Immediately. His music always hits me right away. I’m really afan of late romanticism, especially those verismo operas, with fairly simplestories full of misery, and then that very emotional, cinematic music. I likeentertainment, and Puccini is very good at that, which is why there are alsomusic lovers who look down on him, they think it is too flat. I also likeVerdi, because he knows how to outline the atmosphere so well and knowsexactly what singers can do. If Verdi is the NPO, then Puccini is RTL.’

The Hague or Nootdorp?

‘I was born in The Hague, but grew up in Wassenaar, so in a village. Thatsuits me, you get to know people faster. But there is more to experience inthe city, I find it difficult to choose. Ever since I became a celebrity,everyone wants to know everything about me and come into my house. My wife hasnot chosen that, she is a teacher and just wants to live peacefully.

‘I am a house sparrow. In the Dutch opera world it works that you are onlytaken seriously if you have made a career abroad. I tried it once, working inan opera house in Osnabrück for a month, but I couldn’t stand the loneliness.Terrible.

‘Through my TV appearances people in the opera world know how to place mebetter. They always thought I was a good singer, but I was too stubborn, notto be kneaded, not highbrow. Now I can be an ambassador for the opera. Sincethe TV, I’ve also been asked more for roles, then those companies are veryhappy that they have Francis in the house. They are now more often smallroles, because I am no longer of the age that I can play the young soprano.Sometimes audience members are disappointed when I don’t have so much tosing.’

Have a drink with opera or musical people?

‘Musical people. 100 percent. They are much better at that in the musical.This is also due to the set-up: in an opera you never play the sameperformance for eight consecutive months – no, then there are eightperformances. From The Sound of Music if I have done 120, then you build acompletely different relationship with your colleagues. There is tremendousdiscipline. Every day there is a joint call like: we’re going for it again.

‘In the opera everyone is more on their own island, you are busy with your ownvoice. You also have to put in a bigger performance, vocally, so you can’t bebubbling much either. Although: when I Jenůfa sang at Dutch National Opera,if I had such a nice opponent, an Englishman, I would gladly go to the cafeacross the street to drink those delicious Belgian beers.’

A leading role at Dutch National Opera or in The Sound of Music?

‘There is one thing I still really want, and that is to sing Tosca fromPuccini. That is not even necessary at Dutch National Opera. It’s my one andonly dream, with such a real Scarpia (the villain who wants to conquer Tosca,red. ), a set full of statues of the Virgin Mary, and that you then have tojump down like that (Tosca commits suicide by throwing himself from thetranses of the Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome, red. ).

‘It depends a bit on whether I will do musicals more often. Suppose they comewith Beauty and the Beast , then I would like to sing that old Mrs. Teapot,there is very beautiful music in it. But Hema the musical – it seems toexist –, I’m not waiting for that. Anatevka , Fiddler on the Roof : I alsothink they are all very beautiful. But you commit yourself for such a longperiod of time, that’s very intense.

‘I don’t feel like I’ve been looked at differently since I did that musical,because everyone thinks I’m unique. I hear that from all sides. In the musicalworld I am the opera singer, and in the opera they say: she does The Sound ofMusic no one can do that better than her.’

Francis van Broekhuizen Statue FrankRuiter

Francis van BroekhuizenStatue Frank Ruiter

Carlo & Irene or Philip & Maarten?

‘Difficult weather. With Carlo Boszhard I performed in The TV canteen Iplayed Queen Elizabeth in it. But I choose Philip Freriks and Maarten vanRossem. Because I’m always in bed with Maarten. With his podcast, with hislectures. Philip is very nice, a sweet, cultured man. And Maarten is so goodat putting things into perspective because he knows so much about history, Ifind that soothing.

‘My TV career started with Maestro (competition in which celebrities have toconduct an orchestra, red. ) in 2017. I was allowed to sing there, it wasvery well received and I was always asked back. Not the last time, then theywanted to change tack and Laetitia Gerards did it, also a very nice chick. Incorona time I finally had time to participate in The smartest person.Apparently I made such an impression there that people still think I won.Well, I just couldn’t walk the streets anymore.

‘During the lockdown, the TV was a godsend to still be able to perform.Television is easier than stage, you don’t have to be able to do anything forit. At least, not me, I’m just me and people seem to like that a lot, haha.’

Pope Francis or John Paul II?

“Francis, for sure. Because he tries to welcome everyone, even the gays amongus. He is good for the poor, for the refugees: he really lives up to his nameand tries to fill his pontificate in the spirit of Saint Francis. He is justnot helped by the curia, which is conservative as the plague.

‘Recently I was at a funeral, in my own parish church. There is such a Spanishpriest. He just plainly says that only people who live a devout, RomanCatholic life may go to communion. Well, then almost the entire church is notallowed. I can only ask for the blessing, because because I live with a woman,I am too sinful. I felt totally discriminated against, in my own country. Whois such a man in a chasuble to determine if I am Catholic? I don’t feel likesubmitting to it.

‘You also have priests who say: we do the Lord’s Supper here and everyone canparticipate, I think that is a much better starting point. I don’t like goingto church anymore because they only have mission priests from Latin America.That’s why I get alienated. I am a culture catholic: I like the music and therituals. I am critical, yes. But because of Pope Francis, I stick with it.”

Singing your solo performance in a sold-out Beatrix Theater or singing at thePride?

‘Yeah, that Pride was a kick. But I would really like to have that BeatrixTheater full now. For the last time I play my program When in doubt singloud with Gregor Bak. If we sell a thousand tickets, we’re good. But stillprefer the Pride, that’s about something. It’s great to be in such a purpledress on Dam Square Climb Every Mountain sing and everyone goes crazy. Inthe end, we gays are blamed for everything, see Putin with his attack on theWest corrupted by the LGBTI movement. It is important that as a gay person youhave examples that say: it is good that you are here.’

Early or late Callas?

“I’m a huge Maria Callas fan, although I’m a very different type from her. Shewas the diva, I prefer to come to rehearsals in sweatpants. After taking thequiz The Connection (Van Broekhuizen won and took full control, red. ),Matthijs van Nieuwkerk asked me to make a lecture on Callas. He likes peoplewho are obsessed with something and so am I. I’m very know-it-all, which iswhy I’m so good at quizzes.

‘But early or late Callas: it just depends on what you mean by that. For belcanto the early Callas, for verismo the late. Her Tosca from 1964 is muchbetter than the one from the fifties. She then found her own Scarpia inAristotle Onassis (the wealthy Greek shipowner who would later marry JackieKennedy, red. ). It seems like you feel that. That’s my interpretation,isn’t it? When you see her singing, you see that she has so much baggage. Thescandals, the toil, always having to be the best, being the most photographedwoman of her time: all that frustration comes out.’