Charles Osborne


Australian-born writer Charles Osborne , died in London, on September 23, 2017, aged 89, after a long illness. Born in Brisbane on 24 November 1927, he taught himself to play the piano and found his first singing teacher when he was 18. He wrote poetry from his early years, and was published in prominent magazines. He devoured recordings of opera and Lieder, but soon realized that a singing career was not in his future. His speaking voice was well-suited to radio and the stage in Australia, where he had some success as an actor. In July 1953 he sailed to Europe and found his intellectual home. He acted in theatres across the UK, appeared in several films including The Dam Busters, became a radio broadcaster and wrote sleeve notes for record companies in the days when LPs contained lengthy, informative booklets. He developed a large circle of friends in literature, music and theatre. He worked for The London Magazine for eight years from 1958, five of them as Assistant Editor, before joining the Arts Council of Great Britain’s Literature Department in 1966. He was Literature Director from 1971 to 1986. When he left the Arts Council, Nicolai Gedda sang a recital in his honour.

Osborne was associated with opera for most of his writing career, and served on the editorial board from 1970 to 1999. From 1986 to 1991 he was chief theatre critic for the Daily Telegraph, and he was President of the British Critics‘ Circle from 2002 to 2004. He was a prolific writer whose series of books titled The Complete Operas of… included Verdi – all of whose operas he made sure he heard in performance before writing the book – Puccini, Mozart, Wagner and Strauss as well as many of the bel canto composers. Other works ranged from biographies of Verdi, Wagner, Schubert, W.H. Auden and the Australian bushranger Ned Kelly to texts accompanying major paintings by Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale and William Dobell. He ’novelized‘ several plays by Agatha Christie, as well as Coward’s Blithe Spirit. His memoir, Giving it Away, was published in 1986. Griffith University in Australia awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1995, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1996, and in 2009 Italy awarded him the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity for his contribution to the understanding of Verdi. He is survived by his partner of 55 years, Ken Thomson. Ian Campbell (mit besonderem Dank an den Editor der englischen Opernzeitschrift Opera/ Foto Charles Osborne/