Posted by Tim Harrison
The opera world is mourning the loss of the great Dame Joan Sutherland… once described by Luciano Pavarotti as “the voice of the century” (high praise indeed).
Now, I am not an opera buff – in fact, I think I only have two or three CDs at home with the word ‘opera’ on them. But, I found that Dame Joan’s death brings me to some interesting observations.
In a world now so bent on immediacy and instant gratification, Dame Joan stands out as being of an era past. Her absolute dedication to opera is evident when one reviews some of her accomplishments.
Her most famous role was the lead in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, which she performed no less than 233 times. Opera is no easy feat and this fact alone reveals her stamina. Through this role, she was dubbed La Stupenda (the stunning one).
Add to the above the knowledge that Sutherland performed key roles in at least 63 operas and you see that Dame Joan was serious about singing!
At her 80th birthday celebration held in the Sydney Opera House, in typical theatrical style during the tributes, the lights were faded out and her voice was played to the packed house. The performance was one of her finest. When the lights came up, there she was onstage… magic.
In this world where such talent is often glossed over, I have to ponder, would we still see a repeat of a 19 minute standing ovation that occurred in 1959 for such talent? Or would we rush home to “relive” the experience on YouTube?
I think very soon I will have to pick myself up a copy of one of her renowned works and close my eyes and let the voice of one of Australia’s finest wash over me.
Maybe we should all take that little bit of time to relive the days where time was more generous.
And just maybe, this fool will take an hour or two appreciate the musical pot of gold that is opera.
From the Full Catastrophe, we say Vale La Stupenda.