Sutherland, Dame Joan

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Sutherland, Dame Joan

Dame Joan Sutherland, 1926–2010, Australian coloratura soprano and one of the most famous singers of the 20th cent. Sutherland studied in her hometown of Sydney, where she made her concert debut (1947) in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and her operatic debut (1951) in Eugene Goossen's Judith. She moved to London in 1951 and studied at the Royal College of Music. Sutherland was acclaimed for her astounding range, from low G to above high C; for her warm and vibrant voice, intense yet lyrical; and for her superb, seemingly effortless technique. Beginning in 1952 she was a leading singer at London's Royal Opera House Covent Garden. She debuted at both La Scala, Milan and the Metropolitan Opera in 1961. Sutherland was considered unsurpassed among her contemporaries in the bel canto repertory. She was particularly celebrated for her singing of the title role in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. She frequently performed with her husband, Richard Bonynge, conducting. She was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1978, and she retired in 1990.

See her autobiography (1997) and J. Sutherland and R. Bonynge, The Joan Sutherland Album (1986); biographies by R. R. Braddon (1962), E. Greenfield (1973), B. Adams (1980), and N. Major (1987, repr. 1994); Q. Eaton, Sutherland and Bonynge: An Intimate Biography (1987); M. Oxenbould, Joan Sutherland: A Tribute (1989).

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