Joan Sutherland (November 7, 1926 – October, 10, 2010), opera singer.

Dame Joan Sutherland was one of the greatest coloratura sopranos in music history. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Sutherland began singing by listening to and imitating her mother, a fine amateur singer. She began vocal studies at the Royal College of Music in London and made her debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1952. Although she originally saw herself as a dramatic Wagnerian soprano, her husband, conductor Richard Bonynge convinced her that her voice was more suited for the lyrical Bel Canto roles of Italian opera. In a 1958 performance at Covent Garden of the aria “Let the Bright Seraphim” from Handel’s Samson, Sutherland received a 10 minute standing ovation. The following year, she established her international reputation with her performance in the title role of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.

Two of her most lasting and fruitful musical partnerships were with her husband of 56 years, who conducted her in numerous performances, and with the celebrated tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, who called her the “Voice of the Century. In Italy she was referred to as “La Stupenda” for the clarity and flexibility of her voice. Regarding her voice, she observed:

“Technique is the basis of every pursuit. If you’re a sportsman or you’re a singer or a swimmer, well that comes under sport but you have to develop a basic technique to know what you’re doing at any given time.”

Joan Sutherland’s performing career spanned over 40 years. Fittingly, her last operatic stage appearance was in her native Sydney in 1990. She also gave her last concert performance that year at Covent Garden, after which she and her husband retired to Switzerland. She suffered two broken legs in a fall in 2008 and had been in poor health since then.

Joan Sutherland received many honors and awards throughout her career, beginning with winning Australia’s Sun Aria competition in 1951. She won a Grammy award in 1962 for her album, “The Art of the Prima Donna.” Queen Elizabeth II honored her three times by naming her a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), a Dame Commander of the Empire (DCE), and finally with the Order of Merit. In 2004, Sutherland was also a Kennedy Center honoree. In 1997, she published her autobiography. Her advice for young singers was:

“You can listen to what everybody says, but the fact remains that you’ve got to get out there and do the thing yourself.”

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