Dame Joan Sutherland, the soporano that thrilled millions of opera queens around the world, has died n Switzerland aged 83.
The greatest opera singer Australia has produced, died peacefully at home in Switzerland yesterday. She had been frail since breaking both her legs in a 2008 fall.
One of the most remarkable female opera singers of the 20th century, she was dubbed La Stupenda by a La Fenice audience in 1960 after a performance as Alcina.
Her friend Luciano Pavarotti once called Sutherland the “Voice of the Century”, while Montserrat Caballé described the Australian’s voice as being like “heaven”.
Sutherland was born of Scots parents in Sydney, Australia, where she attended St Catherine’s School.
She was 18 when she started studying voice seriously with John and Aida Dickens and made her concert debut in Sydney, as Dido in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, in 1947.
In 1951, she made her stage debut in Eugene Goossens’s Judith. In 1951, after winning Australia’s most important competition, the Sun Aria, she went to London to further her studies at the Opera School of the Royal College of Music with Clive Carey. She was engaged by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as a utility soprano, and made her debut there on 28 October 1952, as the First Lady in The Magic Flute, followed in November by a few performances as Clotilde in Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma, with Maria Callas as Norma.
During her early career, she was training to be a Wagnerian dramatic soprano, following the steps of Kirsten Flagstad, whom she greatly admired. In December 1952, she sang her first leading role at the Royal Opera House, Amelia in Un ballo in maschera. Other roles included Agathe in Der Freischütz, the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro, Desdemona in Otello, Gilda in Rigoletto, Eva in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Pamina in The Magic Flute.
In 1953, she sang in Benjamin Britten’s Gloriana a few months after its world premiere, and created the role of Jennifer in Michael Tippett’s The Midsummer Marriage, on 27 January 1955.
Sutherland married Australian conductor and pianist, Richard Bonynge, on 16 October 1954. They had a son, Adam, born in 1956.
Her last performance was as Marguerite de Valois (Les Huguenots) at the Sydney Opera House in 1990, at the age of 63, where she sang Home Sweet Home for her encore.
According to her own words, given in an interview with The Guardian newspaper in 2002, her biggest achievement was to sing the title role in Esclarmonde.