Monday, October 11, 2010

RIP Joan Sutherland

Australian soprano Joan Sutherland was described as `La Stupenda', the `Koloraturwunder' or `The Incomparable'. Her career stretched over more than forty years and the many honours she has received all over the world includes the 1979 title of Dame of the British Empire conferred by Queen Elizabeth II.

Sutherland was on the stage since 1947. In Sydney she sang the title role in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, followed by performances in Handel's Samson and as Judith in Eugene Goossens' opera of that name. Her European career began in London in 1952 (including the part of Giorgetta in Puccini's Il tabarro at the Royal College of Music) and in the same year she also made her debut at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden as the First Lady in The Magic Flute. Before appearing in front of highly critical London audiences in a leading role, as Amelia in Un ballo in maschera, she sang the parts of the Priestess in Aida and Clotilde with Callas in Norma. Even at this early stage this exceptionally gifted soprano demonstrated her range as the Countess in Figaro, but she had to wait another year for her next leading role, during which time she sang the Overseer in Elektra, Lady Rich in Britten's Gloriana, Frasquita in Carmen and Helmwige in Die Walk├╝re at Covent Garden and with the company on tour. Her most important parts in 1954 were Aida and Agathe, in addition to which she was still performing smaller roles such as Woglinde and the Wood Bird. Surprisingly this soprano who has for so long tended towards coloratura, originally appeared in Tales of Hoffmann, not as Olympia, but as Antonia and Giulietta; it was fifteen years later (in Seattle in 1970) that she sang all four female parts in Offenbach's opera -- an achievement captured by DECCA in a complete recording made in the following year.

Dame Joan Sutherland has died in Switzerland at the age of 83, according to published reports. She won the 1981 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocalist. In 1988, she wrote her autobiography, A Prima Donna's Progress.
Among her honors are a Companion of the Order of Australia, and the Order of Merit. She is survived by her husband, Australian conductor and pianist Richard Bonynge, whom she married in 1954, and their son, Adam.

No comments: