Dame Joan Sutherland, the Australian dramatic coloratura soprano, who was noted for her contribution to the renaissance of the bel-canto repertoire, and whose career stretched from the late 1950s through to the 1980s, has died in Switzerland at the age of 83.
Because of her very Italian reprotoire and paucity of Germanic operatic roles, Ms Sutherland rarely graced the Berlin opera stages.
However, muscial genius is univerally recognized and praised and Ms Sutherland leaves many grieving fans in Berlin. The following article appeared in todays Berliner Morgenpost-
The fabulous classical music station in Berlin , Kultur Radio RBB, had a great one hour tribute – http://www.kulturradio.de/programm/sendungen/101012/musikstadt_berlin_1805.html
[ Unfortunately, the program was presented by someone who kept saying what sounded like - ' Jane Zuterlant' - Joan Sutherland is not that hard to say surely ]
We all have our favourite Joan Sutherland recordings and some of us were lucky enough to have seen her live and have their own favourite memories of having heard and/or seen her.
In October 1963, at the newly inaugurated Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre – Joan Sutherland sang her first ‘Norma’ by Bellini – an opera on which she would build her career.
Let’s be honest – Joan Sutherland was not a beauty or a Diva in the Maria Callas vein, nor did she have a great or even a good stage presence, even though she got better with experience and age.
With her rather large and awkward shape, she did not add anything by way of sex appeal – mind you nor did many gifted but other over-weight Diva’s , who it seems have become a thing of the past.
However she had THE VOICE – and it was really stupendous as the Italian audiences came to call her – La Stupenda.
Ms Callas never had a great voice [ sorry] like Joan Sutherland, nor like Renate Tebaldi, her two contemporaries – but she made up for this with a great stage presence and in this respect Ms Sutherland and Ms Callas compliment each other.
By the way, Ms Callas – who rarely if ever praised the competition, praised Joan Sutherland which was praise indeed.
Two personality traits of hers that everyone who worked with her recognized was firstly her professionalism – always ready to learn and change, even late in career her.
This exposed her almost innate modesty – her respect shown to her fellow singers and musicians was legendary.
The second attribute for which she was known was her very ‘down to earth’ approach to her work.
She recognized that her life as a singer was nothing more [or less !] than a job – or work and she wanted to carry it out as professionally as possible -without becoming arrogant, in spite of her success, while many other singers would have rested on their laurels.
She also spread the fame around in the family and she credited her husband, the conductor, fellow Australian Richard Bonynge, for helping her to become ‘La Stupenda’.
The bad news is that we have lost a great singer – loved by all who knew her …….or at least knew her voice.
However, the good news is that there are many new young singers who have taken up the torch of Ms Sutherland and we have a plethora of young talent on the world’s opera stages.
The expression denoting a jumbo sized Diva, and yes there were many in the past -‘Until the fat lady sings’ – is now a thing of the past.
Most sopranos and tenors of today’s opera houses are looking after themselves much better and their singing seems to be the better because of it.
Joan Sutherland would and did approve of this- we hope these new younger stars will learn from her modesty.
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