Tuesday 12 October 2010

Joanie is no more, evviva La Stupenda

Heroine of my late childhood and early teens, Dame Joan Sutherland has died at the age of 83. The natural end of a life well lived is perhaps the reason why I didn't shed tears as I did over the untimely deaths of Hildegard Behrens, Lucia Popp and Tatiana Troyanos. I've added my own tribute to Ismene Brown's flavoursome personal appraisal over on The Arts Desk, and I wrote about how I came to The World of Joan Sutherland in an earlier blog entry.

Perhaps all that's left here is to list a few personal favourites from the immense Stupendography. For the early brightness, the two albums making up The Art of the Prima Donna are the obvious starting point. There's pathos in her very young Donna Anna on the Giulini set of Mozart's Don Giovanni. I loved her four heroines in The Tales of Hoffmann, as much for the performing edition well espoused by scholar-hubbie Bonynge as for her feat in flipping from automaton Olympia to consumptive Antonia and seductress Giulietta (how she hated the production shot of her as Venetian vamp, pushing it away at an evening I once attended in my infatuated teens, chaired by Alan Sievewright).

The partnership with Pavarotti produced phenomenal results, including the irresistible (and funny) Fille du regiment

and I have a special fondness for that duets disc they recorded, which includes more top-drawer Donizetti (Linda di Chamonix) and surprising Verdi (Otello and Aida).

The Turandot suggested potential new directions Sutherland by and large didn't take, thereby extending her singing life by sticking to bel canto. But Massenet's heroine Esclarmonde - gorgeous camp icon on my treasured LP box above, one to add to the Lakme I posted earlier - was the role that inspired me to write to her, and to get the gracious reply + signed photo I mention on TAD. You'll need good speakers to get the full brilliance of that most fabulous of top Ds. And so, the voice lives on.


Will said...

I was very fortunate to be studying in Boston in the mid-60s and get to see Sutherland in I Puritani and Semiramide (with Horne) in Sarah Caldwell's productions. The ovations were endless and disbelief at what we were hearing was rampant. It was unprecedented for a voice of her size to move at the lightning speed with which she poured out the scales and ornaments.

At the MET there were performances of Donna Anna, Amina and Marie in La Fille du Regiment. Her beautifully focused and completely free tone reached high up to the farthest seats and bounced off the walls with an exciting buzz. She made it all seem effortless. An incredible artist.

David said...

Joanie and Marilyn in Semiramide = now THAT I would like to have experienced in the flesh.

Will said...

It was marvelous also for Horne's breath control while seven months pregnant -- and, delightfully, wearing a beard! The audience loved it. But then, the audience went bonkers for the whole thing, including spectacularly painted early novecento-revival scenery.