Joan Sutherland’s acting coach has died

The venerable Norman Ayrton, long-serving head of LAMDA, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, has died at 92.

He coached to the young Joan Sutherland with her wooden acting and helped her at several Covent Garden productions. He directed opera at the ROH, Sydney Opera House, Juilliard and Harvard.


photo: BADA

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  • Alas, he was unable to truly meet the challenge!
    I saw her in several of her “great” roles, but her personality was really only suited to comedy.
    “La Fille..” with Pavarotti, Resnik, Corena and Welitsch was phenomenal. Anything else, rather embarrassing.
    Having said that, there are odd exceptions on disc – if anyone knows a better “Santo di Patria” (ATTILA, studio Decca), I’d love to hear it!
    What a shame – after the Bonynge coaching period in her early days – that she didn’t enjoy extended work with people like Serafin, Giulini, and other true Maestri! Possibly a deepened perception of the score might have facilitated greater stagecraft (despite certain intrinsic physical components).
    There’s no question that she could have become a Callas, but possibly a finer dramatic artist than the one we experienced.
    To give her some credit, who has sung even-toned scales or thrilling top E-flats like that since!

  • I remember seeing a documentary about her (and her husband, I guess) once upon a time, in which she addressed the complaints people have had over the decades about her acting: something to the effect of “I’m a singer. If you want acting, go see a play.”

  • I think we know Joan Sutherland’s shortcomings in the acting and diction department. To keep regurgitating them over and over is really quite boring.

    Having said that, she had an amazing and glorious voice. She helped to bring a great tenor — Placido Domingo — to the fore. She and her husband Richard Bonynge brought a whole brace of bel canto operas back into the light of day. Her contribution was huge, and the honors she received well deserved. I’m sorry to hear about Norman’s passing.

    • She brought Pavarotti to the fore, not Domingo. Though she did sing with Domingo. But Pavarotti toured Australia with Sutherland and Bonynge in 1965 and they went on to make many recordings and countless performances together.

  • The article is about the venerable Norman Ayrton, R.I.P. not about Joan Sutherland! We’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent here! I met Norman when I was briefly a student at LAMDA. Certainly unforgettable. Unfortunately the two us didn’t quite ‘get’ each other I think which was a shame as I could no doubt have learnt a lot from him.

    Looking back now over so many years I can only think of him with respect. Until next time, R.I.P.

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