Dame Joan Sutherland

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About Dame Joan Sutherland

One of the 20th century’s greatest sopranos, Dame Joan Sutherland’s golden legato and dazzling agility established her as an opera star and placed her at the forefront of the bel canto repertoire revival. Born in Sydney, Australia, in 1926, Sutherland was influenced by her mezzo-soprano mother and began studying voice at 18. She went to London to study at the Royal College of Music as a dramatic Wagnerian soprano, but her crystalline high notes and exceptional coloratura caught the attention of young conductor and pianist Richard Bonynge. The two married, and, at Bonynge’s encouragement, Sutherland transitioned to the dramatic coloratura repertoire for the rest of her career. She debuted at the Royal Opera House singing minor roles, but was quickly handed the lead: Her Lucia di Lammermoor (1835) in the Royal Opera’s 1959 production catapulted her into overnight and lasting stardom. As she triumphed on every major stage, Sutherland enlivened the bel canto repertoire with humorous sparkle and tragic velvet tones; her singing on records was compared to a Stradivarius violin in Lucia and La Fille du Régiment (1839), both conducted by Bonynge. Dame Joan also mentored a young tenor—Luciano Pavarotti—as another lasting contribution to the operatic world.

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
November 7, 1926

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