Skip to main content

On The Death of Dame Joan Sutherland: Ode to Joan

On October 10th, a very superb singer, and I'm told just as excellent a human being, was lost to the world and the Opera community. Joan Sutherland, a Soprano, of the Dramatic Coloratura variety, died at her home in Switzerland at the age of 83.

Instead of exploring the tragedy of this death, I would like to take this time to explain to many of you who might not have known her work quite so well, why she was amazing at what she did, and why this particular loss, is quite a meaningful loss to myself.

Joan Sutherland was a legend even in her own time (and let's face it, that's an accomplishment when such luminaries as Mozart had a difficult time doing that while still alive). She was married to the famous conductor, Richard Bonynge and she grew up in Austrailia before gaining her first big success at the Royal Opera House in London and then subsequently moving to Brooklyn with her husband where she lived for quite a long time during her many numerous collaborations with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

Her voice and her personality are the stuff of legends. She was the person who actually is credited with starting Luciano Pavarotti's career: she found him singing La Boheme at La Scala and being booed off stage, and by helping him to find his high notes through teaching him her technique of doing it, she created a megastar of him, as well. Thereafter the two were said to be best of friends and collaborated quite a lot on many notable productions ( like La Fille du Regiment and Il Trovatore at the Met).

Although she might not have been the most perfect singer when it came to dramatic interpretation (as some might suggest) or diction (as most might suggest), let's face it, the woman had the voice! There are numerous times where I've seen her on YouTube, or heard a recording of her, and her voice is just unmistakable. It couldn't be anyone but her. Her voice was simply stunning, and I bet that every person who has heard her, either recorded or live, will admit that. She found the perfect mixture of beauty, strength and uniqueness that is ideal for an Operatic voice, and it was even so perfect as to make her other foibles (the possibly not perfect dramatic interpretation on stage and the sometimes questionable diction) practically non-issues (and to a picky, educated Opera public, that's saying something)!

Coincidentally, I had just contacted the Sydney Oper House a few weeks ago to find out where I could mail a fan letter to Ms. Sutherland, since her work meant so much to me and my own experience of Opera. She was a person who made Opera something to strive for, for those of us who are still working on 'becoming something' in this field. She set such high standards in terms of technical sound perfection, and she also presented a likable persona both on stage and off, which is a difficult combination to find normally in someone who is so famous.

Ultimately, I would like to thank Joan Sutherland for consistently doing her best in this profession and putting such love into it that her contribution to opera was able to touch such a wide audience (those already within the profession, not to mention, those who merely became familiar with Opera through hearing her name or hearing her sing).

I guess I did get to write that fan letter after all....

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How Long Can Opera Singers Sing Per Day?

To those readers who aren't singers (or even those who are) I would like to take some time today to talk about the proper and measured use of our voices (speaking and singing) during the course of a normal day and over the course of a normal week.

This subject has come to mind for me because of factors relating to everyone' normal daily lives.  We are technologically-connected beings who are constantly communicating with someone, somewhere, somehow.  Sure, it's great to talk at work with your co-workers during lunch break, or have a phone conversation with your Grandmother for an hour every Tuesday, but just how much is all that talking really weighing on your voice in an overall evaluation?

Because I have been singing six days a week for at least two hours since last June (and have really kept that schedule up- amazingly--okay, except for Christmas break at which point I didn't sing for 1.5 weeks) I've noticed that speaking frequently over the course the day would…

Opera Chorus Jobs: The Warm-Up

When I talk to non-musicians and non-singers about the difficulty of breaking into the solo career scene in Opera, they ask me (as any logical person would) "Well, why not just join the chorus? At least you could be still doing what you love- singing!"  And, while this is a very sensible plan and a good one in theory, it actually has a lot of pitfalls that I'd like to explain now to you in this post.  This will also hopefully bring about some good conversation from my operatic colleagues who are opera chorus members, or who are thinking of doing it, or who are opera house managers and who deal with chorus singers and the system of how the hiring works.

I must stress that what I am saying here is in no way the only view on the matter, but it is an informed one, as I know many chorus singers are various size opera houses, and I see and hear about the politics associated with being a chorus singer through being in the opera business and being around those people in charge o…

My Audition for a REAL Opera House in Germany!

This past Tuesday I had my first German Opera House audition!  I was asked at the last minute by a colleague who worked there to audition for a role they're looking to cast next season and which I sing, and have sung for this colleague in an audition before.  (Sorry, I can't be any more specific with names because I don't want to jinx it.)  Honestly, I was really lucky to have been asked to audition since normally these sorts of things don't happen unless you have an agent who knows about the vacancy which the theater is looking to fill, and then sends you there, and actually, all of the other singers who were there to audition had agencies.  So, I was quite overjoyed to have been invited, to say the least.

However, sticking to the point- I'd like to relate what the experience was like.

I heard of the audition on a Friday and the audition itself was taking place on Tuesday of the following week, so in four days.  That really didn't give me a whole lot of time t…