Dame Joan Sutherland, one of the great sopranos of our time, has died aged 83.
With Maria Callas she spearheaded the post-war revival of the bel canto repertoire, in a career that stretched from her debut in 1947 to her retirement from the stage in the party scene during a performance of Die Fledermaus at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in 1990 alongside two of her closest musical friends, Marilyn Horne and Luciano Pavarotti.
Her stage career was launched at Covent Garden where she focused on dramatic soprano roles and sang an extraordinary range of parts that included operas by Verdi, Wagner, Weber, Poulenc and Tippett (for whom she created the role of Jenifer in The Midsummer Marriage of 1955). February 1959 saw her in the title-role of Lucia in a new production by Franco Zeffirelli, conducted by Tullio Serafin – her reputation was secure and soon the great opera houses of the world beckoned. Her Lucia was seen in Paris in 1960 and at La Scala, Milan in 1961. Audiences at La Fenice in Venice dubbed her 'La Stupenda' following performances of Handel's Alcina.
Sutherland was loyal to the Decca Record Company with whom she recorded – usually with her husband Richard Bonynge 'in the pit' – throughout her career. She recorded the key works of the soprano repertoire (often more than once) including Lucia di Lamermoor, Violetta (La traviata), Gilda (Rigoletto), Les contes d'Hoffmann, Norma, La fille du régiment, Semiramide and many more.
Launch the Gramophone Player, right, and select the "From the Archive" tab to hear Dame Joan Sutherland singing "Casta diva" from Bellini's Norma, from the Decca compilation album The Voice of the Century, or to watch her sing "Addio del passato" from Verdi's La traviata, from the DVD “An Evening with Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti, also from Decca.
Read articles about Dame Joan Sutherland in the Gramophone Archive. The November edition of Gramophone will contain a full tribute to Dame Joan Sutherland.