News of the death of Dame Joan Sutherland in Switzerland on 10th October at age 83 has been met with a tidal wave of tributes and remembrances right around the world, and marks the passing of a remarkable era for opera and music generally. Coming so soon after the death of another great Australian musician earlier this year, Sir Charles Mackerras, it begins to look as if an entire generation of great 20th century musical figures is slowly “leaving the building”. Fortunately their legacies live on in so many ways, and we can only count ourselves lucky that 20th century technology has been able to preserve so much of this extraordinary talent for future generations.
- Random House, 1997
Dame Joan’s memoir met with some fairly chilly responses when it first came out, possibly failing to live up to the expectations brought to it by a public too well versed in the backstage shenanigans of the operatic world, and fully expecting some major dirt-dishing. What they got instead was a cool and somewhat dispassionate survey of her professional career, a print version of the drumtight privacy she always maintained around her personal life; hardly surprising!
- Craftsman House, 1986
A lovely book full of terrific images from two remarkable careers. The photo of Bob Hawke kneeling before her says it all!
- Random House, 1993
One of two major biographies to appear in the 1980s, this one was revised in 1993 after the diva’s retirment in 1990. The other is an authorised biography by Norma Major, wife of the former British Prime Minister.
- Queen Anne Press, 1987
- Decca, 1960, 1985
Of course you can read all you want, but to hear Sutherland at the very height of her powers in 1960 singing repertoire that might have been tailor-made for her, you understand what all of the fuss was about! And any recording that begins with a totally breathtaking rendition of Thomas Arne’s The soldier tired, and then just gets better and better over 2 discs has well and truly earned its place as one of the greatest operatic recitals ever produced.
- Désirée Records, 2002
Despite attempts to do so, Dame Joan could never be accused of neglecting her homeland, and the Sutherland-Williamson tour of the mid-1960s has definitely passed into Australian performing arts legend. How wonderful then to now have a series of discs with substantial excerpts from many of these incredible performances compiled from “unofficial” (yo, ho, ho) tapes, etc., and supported by Sutherland herself.
- Pioneer Classics, 2000
It was her performance in Lucia di Lammermoor at Covent Garden in 1959 that made Sutherland an “overnight” sensation, and it remained a signature role throughout her career. You can watch her perform it at the Metropolitan Opera in 1982 in this lovely production, which also stars another operatic legend, Alfredo Kraus.
- Decca, 1976
Sutherland often stated that the title role in Massenet’s opera Esclarmonde was one of her favourites, going so far as to say that the duet she sings on this recording with tenor Giacomo Aragall was the most erotic piece of music she had ever sung.
This is a nice tribute on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbS-Uiq8c_8
For more material on the life and career of Joan Sutherland, just search the catalogue.
You can also check Trove for resources around the country.