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Opera: Joan Sutherland dies

October 11, 2010

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that opera legend Joan Sutherland has died at the age of 83, after a long illness.

I met Joan Sutherland when she led a Bel Canto masterclass course at the Britten-Pears School for Advanced Musical Studies (now known as the Britten-Pears Young Artists Programme) back in 1996.

It was a major affair for the Britten-Pears School. We were anxious to make sure her stay was a pleasurable one. We anticipated a diva and made arrangements accordingly.

When she arrived it was Joan Sutherland clear that our admirable preparations were fundamentally unnecessary. She wasn’t the archetypal diva we assumed someone with an international career such as hers would be. We relaxed almost immediately. We felt at ease. She put us at ease.

She was in fact utterly charming, hugely self-effacing and as a result a joy to be around. Yes, the post-graduate students attended their classes with a mixture of fear and awe. But that was always going to be the case. The overriding memory of those 10 days fourteen years on is simple. Her poise combined with an easy personable nature made her a joy to be with and an inspiration to all. The mark of a true professional.

Sutherland recently featured in an hour long BBC Four documentary entitled “Legends – The reluctant Prima Donna” about her early career in London. As patron of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, she presented the prize at last year’s competition.

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