Sunday, October 17, 2010


My thoughts are still preoccupied with the death of Dame Joan. Here are a few of my favorite photos.

* Amina, La Sonnambula, La Scala 1961

# Margeurite de Valois (on horseback), Les Huguenots, La Scala 1962

* Elvira, I Puritani, London 1964 with Gabriel Bacquier

# Norma, Vancouver 1963. Her first Norma and an ecstatic audience (it's worth clicking to enlarge just to see the man in the front row)

# Lucia, Lucia, Lucia, Sydney Concert Hall, January 1980 (I took Mum and Dad)

* Alcina, Sydney, 1983 with Margreta Elkins and some beefy boys.

# Beatrice, Beatrice di Tenda, La Scala 1961

I had planned to follow each picture with a recording from the time, if not the actual photographed performance. While everything is special at the moment, there's one more special than the others to me. It is the exquisitely beautiful, impossibly difficult, achingly sad cry from Beatrice just after her entrance - "Yet am I the only one, alas,"

Beatrice di Tenda was her Feb 21, 1961 New York debut (along with Marilyn Horne), the opera resurrected for her by the American Opera Society in concert at the New York Town Hall. As we know, the two would go on to form a close friendship and formidable working relationship - the 'Druid Duo'. Marilyn Horne is said to have been restless that night, unable to sleep, and finally rang Switzerland at 4 am New York time. Richard told her Joan had just died.

One the day before this New York debut (Lucia at the Met would come later the same year, Sonnambula at Carnegie Hall at the same time), Sutherland received the news that her mother had died, all the more shocking as she had been in good health. Encouraged by her aunt to stay and sing, she did. She sang. The emotion in her voice is only to be heard. Two more performances had to be scheduled at the larger Carnegie Hall to meet the overwhelming demand.

This is the later studio recording. The live 1961 pirate is widely available.

Harold Schoenberg in the New York Time 22 February 1961 wrote: It is a beautifully colored voice, one that ascends effortlessly to the E in alt and most likely beyond. Where most sopranos have trouble with B flats and Cs, Miss Sutherland is at her most secure above the staff. And withal she preserves the color, warmth and style. In concerted numbers her voice soars above the ensemble without ever becoming hard or jagged. She is a supreme technician... She phrases like an artist, and she never tries to take centre stage in the ensemble numbers. She has numerous ways of changing the color of her voice, in accordance with the dramatic and stylistic needs of the moment, and she does not hesitate to do somewhat altering the coloratura she follows precedent.

I don't think she'd like us to finish that way. She often said she loved to leave the daffy mad roles ending in death and revel in humour and joy, in the sheer delight of singing. Enter Joan, all but held aloft by the gentlemen, little feet skipping down the stairs (just) in the most breathtaking entrance, a flash of relief across her face that she made it, then sweeping her way through this, this small pinched hint of what she sounded like in the Concert Hall, in a gorgeous camp very Sydney production:

* Joan Sutherland A Tribue, Moffat Oxenbould
# La Stupenda, Brian Adams

No comments: