For the Australian Joan Sutherland in London in 1951, a beautiful voice
was not enough. There were so many things to learn - new roles, new
arias, how to act, how to dance, how to move on stage; and so many hurdles
to overcome - a chronic health problem, physical shortcomings, financial
challenges (as there were no scholarships for her at the Opera School
of the Royal College of Music). It was not until after 4 auditions that
Covent Garden finally took notice and hired her. In London as in Sydney,
patience, perseverance and determination paid off. In the ensuing years,
she graduated from small parts to ever bigger roles in the mezzo-coloratura
/dramatic soprano category. And with a blend of coaxing and coaching,
Covent Garden soon had a star!
NOT a WAGNERIAN, although she did get to sing and record some Wagner.
(By her own admission the record cover on the left is one of her favorites.)
The coaxing to NOT become a Wagnerian came mostly from Richard Bonynge,
but not because he was anti-Wagner (which he is not). From the very
beginning, he thought Joan Sutherland's voice to be just perfect for
the romantic roles of the bel canto repertory he so loved.
And in time, he was
proved right. In 1959 Joan Sutherland, singing Donizetti'sLucia
di Lamermoor brought Covent Garden to its feet. The following
year in Venice, singing Handel's Alcina, she was christenedLa
Stupenda! And debuts in the world's music capitals followed,
one after another. Joan Sutherland took the operatic world by storm,
praised for her delicately filigreed coloratura, for the beautiful lyricism,
the purity of tone and the wide-ranging strength of her voice. It was
distinctly, unmistakably Sutherland's. Her triumph was Richard Bonynge's
as well for it confirmed the rebirth of his beloved bel canto.