Opera fans the world over have surely read the many accolades and critiques opera’s fabled couple have received throughout their long careers. But less well known are the opinions of their colleagues. Dame Joan Sutherland and Maestro Richard Bonynge are beloved by many of today’s opera singers. And why not? The couple are quick to recognize young talent and have demonstrated a readiness to champion their careers. Not the least is today’s great tenor Luciano Pavarotti who writes, as a prologue dated April 4, 1986 to the book The Joan Sutherland Album:
I can barely remember my career without Joan Sutherland. From the beginning when she did invite me to Australia, I learned from this special lady and extraordinary singer so many things about the voice, the stage and the career. It seems to me that we have always been together on the stage and that is truly what I like.
Renowned American tenor Jerry Hadley, in an interview with FanFaire had this to say:
“I have a long association with both Dame Joan and in recent years more with her husband, Richard Bonynge. I care for both of them. They’re two of the greatest people I know. In many ways they championed me early on in my career and gave me an opportunity to record my first opera. The first opera recording I ever made was Anna Bolena with Joan Sutherland, and that’s not a bad way to start. I’m sure anything I say about Joan you’ve heard a thousand times before. She’s the most gracious, no nonsense person I have ever met. She is the consummate professional – she comes to rehearsal on time, everytime, no complaints, she does her job, and there is none of the diva nonsense that a lot of her lesser colleagues engage in… One has nothing but respect for her.
“I would rank Richard Bonynge among the 3 or 4 of the greatest musicians that I’ve ever worked with. He’s a great musician. I have learned more about singing, about style, about what being in this profession ought to be about from Richard Bonynge than from almost anybody that I can name. He has suffered a lot of unfair criticism over the years, because of who he was married to and the assumption always is he is only there because of her. That’s not true. It’s not true! They are co-equals. I have now done about almost 10 recordings with Richard and I can tell you that there’s nobody that I can think of with whom I have as much fun recording and making music with as I have with Richard. I can’t think of anybody better. I put him in the same league as I put Leonard Bernstein. The only difference is their own personal styles are very different, you know, as human beings. But the music making for my money is on the same level. I would go anywhere to sing anything with Richard….
Richard Bonynge is one of the greatest musicians that I’ve ever known, ever worked with, and I’m proud to call him my friend.”
[Note: Jerry Hadley sadly passed away on July 18, 2007, having taken his own life. Visit FanFaire's Tributes to Jerry Hadley and other Hadley pages.]