Friday, October 15, 2010
FAREWELL "LA STUPENDA!" Dame Joan Sutherland--November 1926--October 2010
Dame Joan Sutherland, who Luciano Pavarotti called "The Voice of the Century," died last Sunday, and the world of Opera and its fans mourn the loss.
Through my parents, who were born in Italy, I learned to love and appreciate opera as they listened to the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts every Saturday afternoon. My grandfather had a collection of Enrico Caruso 78s that he listened to on Sundays, after we had all eaten a typical Italian Sunday dinner.
At one time in Italy's past, every town had an opera house (Venice once had over 30 opera houses.) Opera was to the Italian people in the 19th and early 20th centuries what baseball was to America in the '50s and '60s. Young and old alike were passionate about it.
I first heard Dame Joan Sutherland sing "Lucia di Lammermoor" sometime in the '70s, when her operatic career had been established and she had teamed up with Luciano Pavarotti to sing some of the greatest operas in the Italian repetoire--Verdi, Donezetti, Rossini, Bellini, Puccini. I have many of her recordings. Among my favorites: "I Puritani," "Norma," "La Traviata," and, of course, "Lucia di Lammermoor."
The Met used to go on the road and bring opera to Boston (we demolished our opera house sometime in the '60s and never rebuilt it. Cultural Boston does not have an opera house!) I eagerly awaited the Met's visits and have seen some of the great singers perform live: Robert Merrill, Anna Moffo, Sherrill Milnes, Richard Tucker, Renata Scotto, Mirella Freni, Jose Carreras, and many more. Unfortunately, I never saw Dame Sutherland in a live performance.
But I've enjoyed her performances on PBS, digital recordings, and DVDs. Her voice was incomparable and there will never be another like her.
Farewell Dame Joan. Thank you for the beauty of your voice and all the joy you have given us.