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Dame Joan Alston Sutherland OM AC DBE (7 November 1926 – 10 October 2010) was an Australian operatic soprano, particularly associated with bel canto repertory and French operas. She possessed a voice of great beauty and considerable power combined with extraordinary agility and a brilliant upper register. She was called La Stupenda by the Italian press, which means The Stupendous One.
Life and career
Born in Sydney, Australia, she studied first with her mother and later with John and Aida Dickens. After a few public appearances, notably in Henry Purcell's Dido and Aenas and Eugene Goossens' Judith, she left for London, England in 1951 to continue her vocal studies with Clive Carey.
She was hired by the Royal Opera House as a utility soprano, making her debut in 1952, as the First Lady in Mozart's The Magic Flute. She went on singing a wide variety of roles such as Amelia (Un ballo in maschera), Aida (Aida), Agathe (Der Freischutz) and Eva (Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg), and also created the role of Jennifer in Michael Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage in 1955.
She met and married fellow countryman and accompanist Richard Bonynge in 1954, who recognized her potential for the bel canto repertoire and guided her in that direction. This led to her appearance in Donizetti's Emilia di Liverpool and Handel's Alcina in 1957, and eventually the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor at the Royal Opera House in 1959, which proved a sensational success and launched her international career.
She was rapidly invited to appear at most of the great opera houses of the world (Milan, Paris, New York, etc.) to great acclaim. Some of her most famous roles include; Rossini's Semiramide, Bellini's La sonnambula, Norma, Beatrice di Tenda, I puritani, Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia, Maria Stuarda, Verdi's La traviata, amongst many others. She also resurrected some long neglected works like Massenet's Le Roi de Lahore and Esclarmonde.
- The New Everyman Dictionary of Music, Eric Blom, revised by David Cummings, D.M. Dent & Sons Limited, 1988.