Not every person of note whose death seems worthy of comment is entirely admirable, so it is especially pleasant to note the passing of somebody who offered the world beauty and artistry of an unparalleled nature.
Joan Sutherland, who died Oct. 10 at 83 at her home in Switzerland, was such an artist, and it is sheer pleasure to acknowledge her contributions.
An operatic soprano born in Australia, Sutherland made her name largely in London in the early 1950s. Early on, Italian critics who listened to her full-bodied, resonant tone and her artistry in difficult passagework dubbed her “La Stupenda,” or “the stupendous one.”
Her accomplishments were rooted in talent and enhanced by constant practice and attention to technique and tone. An acknowledged artist, she was almost the “anti-diva” in her warm personal relationships.
Along with her husband, vocal coach and conductor Richard Bonynge, she almost singlehandedly revived what is known as the bel canto (beautiful singing or beautiful song) repertoire.
The early 19th-century operas of Italian composers like Bellini and Donizetti emphasized challenging arias that allowed sopranos (and others) to display their virtuosity. They had fallen into disrepute as simply empty showcases for show-off singing, but Sutherland and Bonynge demonstrated they also had musical strength and dramatic intensity.
Joan Sutherland was also instrumental in the early career of famed Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti. In the early 1960s, Sutherland was an established star and Pavarotti a young upstart. Sutherland and Bonynge took Pavarotti on several extended international tours and helped establish his international reputation.
If you don’t want to buy a set of CDs, go to YouTube, look up Joan Sutherland, and enjoy. This was a singer of unsurpassed artistry who gave pleasure to millions. Thanks for the memories.