Wednesday, August 6, 2008


When I’m in Sydney, I pass her childhood house at least once a day. After years of neglect, it was auctioned and sold recently. I’ve sat on the bus stop outside it and thought about a mother singing right there, just in there, to the young girl who would become known to the world as “La Stupenda”.

Over the hill and a short walk away is the Sydney Cricket Ground where her mother went on languid Sydney summer days. Now the games are fast forward day-night commercial circuses, the local night skies warped by the glare of the floodlights.

Further up the street my father opened his first bank account at the Commonwealth Bank. One shilling. The bank has gone and a metal ATM is in its place. The little streets are crowded with fashionable boutiques, restaurants and cafes. Only the red brick Federation post office looks unchanged.

After decades falling down as Lucia on all the world stages, and now 81, she fell in her garden in Switzerland picking flowers. Both legs were broken. Hospitalised since June, at last there’s some good news. From Opera Australia's "Allerta" this month, Richard Bonynge has a special message from Dame Joan Sutherland:

“Joan would like to thank everyone who has sent such kind messages, and such beautiful cards and flowers to her during her time in hospital. She is unable to answer each message individually but wanted everyone to know it has been such a help in her recovery. She is doing well and is expecting to go home very soon.”

Whatever frailty has overtaken her body, this great woman's courage, endurance, and perserverance which were the hallmarks of the legend seem undiminished. Anyone who saw her, whenever, wherever, with whomever else, knew this: she was the goods. Legs broken maybe, spirit never.

There are more summers and roses yet, thank goodness.

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