Today the curtain fell on the life of the greatest– and most down to earth– diva the world has ever known: the great Australian soprano Dame Joan Sutherland. Sutherland died at 83 at her home in Geneva today.
In the late 50’s, at Covent Garden, Sutherland brought crowds to their feet in fervent acclaim for her interpretation of Lucia and the infamous Mad Scene in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.
My mother introduced me to Sutherland when I was sixteen with the gift of a record, The Art of the Prima Donna. Dame Sutherland’s bel canto pyrotechnics always, without fail, catapaulted me out of any and all times of gloom– and do to this day. I tried to imagine, always, what it would be like to be able to transport throngs of people with that voice. I chose this video to post here not only because it is of one of her earliest Lucia’s, but because despite career-long criticism of her stage presence and inevitable comparison with the ever dramatic Maria Callas, I cannot imagine a more potent characterization than this one– the greatest soprano role and La Stupenda– the greatest soprano. Even against today’s bouquet of remarkable sopranos– Angela Gheorgiu, Natalie Dessay, Anna Netrebko, Rene’ Fleming– this one rules the day and will in perpetuity. A wonderful obit in the New York Times is here. An additional video tribute follows the aria.
Adio e grazie per tutto, La Stupenda….