Richard Bonynge, London in 1950 was a most delightful place.
But he was not as effusive about his studies at the Royal College of
Music. The attraction of the piano as a solo instrument had faded as
he became increasingly drawn to operatic music and the magic of the
Thus he gave up his music scholarship at the College and, while continuing
his piano studies privately, became a coach to singers. One of them
was the newly-arrived Joan Sutherland, whom he had accompanied back
in Sydney, and now escorted in the cultural maze that was London.
It did not take very long for their relationship to strengthen - from
coaching to marriage and an inviolable professional partnership. An
expert in the music of the human voice, he understood the Sutherland
voice best of all.
performances with Joan Sutherland were for a time confined to recitals.
Then in 1962, at a sold-out Sutherland concert of operatic rarities
in Rome, the conductor for the occasion fell ill, the replacement conductor
was hit by a car, and there was no other but Bonynge (by then a recognized
scholar of bel canto) who knew the repertoire well enough
to take over. He did, and Joan Sutherland rather liked the arrangement.
Not long after, she decided in favor of a total partnership - Richard
Bonynge, in her own estimation the 'architect' of her career, would
henceforth conduct all her performances.
And so he did, for which he took a great deal of flak. Critics decried
his lack of formal training in conducting. But he could take potshots
- hadn't they labeled him Svengali to Sutherland's Trilby? So he took
it all in stride, worked hard at his "on-the-job-training" and
did his best -- confident perhaps that his total education in music would
serve him well, and hopeful that audiences would be the better judge,
and time the best of all.