News just in: Joan Sutherland has died

News just in: Joan Sutherland has died


norman lebrecht

October 11, 2010

Dame Joan Sutherland, the dominant opera soprano after Maria Callas, died during the night of October 11, 2010 at her home at Les Avents, near Montreux, Switzerland, her family have announced. She was a month short of her 84th birthday.

An overnight star in 1959, when she stormed the mad scene in Franco Zefirelli’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor, the Australian was steered by her conductor husband Richard Bonynge ever deeper into the bel canto repertory of Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti and away from direct comparison with Callas in the big heartbreak roles of Verdi and Puccini.

The power couple adopted a callow Italian tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, and took him on tour in their home country, an education for which he was eternally grateful. Together, ‘Lucy and Joan’ formed a dream team on Decca Records. Her diction was indistinct and her dynamic control imperfect, but Sutherland conveyed a stage grandeur that overcame any minor shortcomings and the power of her voice was unforgettable. Both of these merits she acquired by watching Kirsten Flagstad during her 1950s Covent Garden apprenticeship, where her other mentor was the Czech conductor, Rafael Kubelik.

A simple, friendly woman, happiest in a dressing room with a magazine and her knitting, she avoided tantrums, had no airs and graces and, in retirement, shunned the limelight. She received a dewy-eyed biography from Norma Major, wife of a British prime minister, and dictated an autobiography of total concealment and ineffable blandness.

For all her unassuming personal modesty, her voice defined an operatic era.


  • Jose Tacoronte says:

    Rest in peace, dear Joan. I remember all the beautiful arias you offered us and I was one of the privileged ones to attend some of your concerts. Your coloratura was truly unique.

  • Robert J. Muldoon says:

    I was introduced to opera throuh Joan Sutherland when I saw her in Lucia di Lammermour at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. She graciously autographed my program. When I moved to New York City, I made sure saw every role that she performed. For me, she was opera. During the years that she did not sing at the Met because of a dipute with Jame Levine, I attended every concert, including opera in concert that she performed in NYC; also attended a concert of Victorian songs and arias at Brooklyn College. Once a fan of Joan, always a fan.

  • Richard Lasky says:

    I met joan Sutherland one evening at the Met after a performance.
    She was sitting in her car waiting for her husband, all alone, looking very tired. I was on a bench facing the car. I smiled at her, she smiled back.
    he voice was something you could never forget if you heard it live. On recordings, it was great but in person, in the opera, it was magic.
    t the car, we started to speak and immediately that wonderful laugh.
    A woman so simple and charming it was hard to imagine that it was the same person that just 45 minutes before received a standing ovation lasting more then 29 minutes.
    My hear goes out to the family who were so much an important part of her life.
    Brava Miss Sutherland for bringing so much beauty, joy and happiness to the world

  • Margaret Redviers says:

    My mother introduced me to Joan Sutherland’s voice when I was a youngster and told me that WE – the world – would be hearing a lot from her. We had lived in Australia during World War 2, and when we travelled anywhere in the following years, she always packed her records at the expense of other possessions… when I asked why, she told me that “quality” was more important than quantity. This remained her most memorable piece of advice, and Joan Sutherland’s voice has been a valued treasure.

  • Luda says:

    A memorial site was created for Joan Sutherland! Honor her memory by contributing to her memorial site