Requiem 11 October 2010Posted by marisacat in Divertissements.
‘One of God’s pranks was to make Joan an overgrown schoolgirl and then give her a divine voice.” The grand lady who made that remark was Dame Edith Evans, and anyone who ever saw her on the stage will almost taste the Lady Bracknell tone of her voice. It was more than a witticism; it summed up to perfection the paradox of Joan Sutherland, who has died aged 83.
From the momentous evening of 17 February 1959, when the Covent Garden audience went almost as mad as Lucia di Lammermoor herself, Sutherland was to rank as one of the first ladies of international opera, yet she never behaved like a prima donna. As she would explain herself: “You couldn’t possibly be a prima donna in my family, because if you showed even a hint of temperament you’d have been packed off to bed without any supper.” And so throughout her career she would be found joking and laughing uproariously in her dressing-room only minutes after giving an overwhelming performance of some tragic operatic heroine. …
The sad thing is, I thought she was dead. Possibly, when Pavarotti died a few years ago (2?, 3?) I somehow simply put them, both at once, in the sarcophagus.
Sutherland and her husband had been greatly impressed by the young Luciano Pavarotti and the two singers often performed together, on the stage and in the recording studio. For Sutherland’s last performance at Covent Garden, a guest appearance in Die Fledermaus in 1990, she was joined on stage by Pavarotti and Horne.
In almost all her recordings she was partnered, as conductor, by Bonynge, who prepared meticulously authentic editions of the works in hand. He often restored the original, higher pitch in these pieces, which bothered his wife not a bit; indeed she revelled in pyrotechnics while never making them an end in themselves.
All the snips are from the Guardian, just the first obit I stumbled upon…
Her tastes were wide-ranging, and she played an important part in a revival of interest in French opera, notably in neglected Massenet works such as Esclarmonde and Le Roi de Lahore. She delighted, too, in letting her mane of chestnut hair down to romp through The Merry Widow. If there was a disappointment in her life it was that Covent Garden did not share her enthusiasm for many of these exuberantly tuneful operas and operettas, so that she became an infrequent visitor to London in her later years.
I heard her many times here in San Francisco…. most particularly one night, in Esclarmonde. The next day, the papers said she had gone past the key of F. Left High C far behind, in her dust….
I could not measure it, sitting there listening to her… but I knew we had flown out past Pluto.
Free range voice…. and what a voice. It seemed to float forever…