Sydney Opera House


Dame Joan herself is held in the highest esteem and affection in my family. I grieve over the loss of this great diva, especially from the professional and private sphere of my own interaction with her. This began long ago, almost fifty years, in 1961, when I was a secretary at Decca Records, London. Decca gave me the special treat of attending Joan’s recording of Handel’s Alcina with a stellar cast conducted by Richard, in that year. Thus I first met Joan after that recording as we travelled in the lift together. Even though she must have been tired, she was so friendly and interested in my own study and experience. This meant all the more to me when eventually I sang the title role in Alcina for Opera Australia, conducted by Richard. The following year Dame Joan was the next Alcina. With the far too early demise of Dame Joan it seems we come to the end of a very special operatic era.

Joan Carden AO, OBE, soprano

To be on the stage with Joan was to know that you were in the presence of greatness and I count myself fortunate that I am able to say that "I worked with Joan Sutherland". It was an association and connection to be proud of, but at the same time to enjoy, for she simply enjoyed her friends and colleagues as much as we enjoyed and valued her presence in our working lives. I still miss the 10 years of shows we did together and I shall miss even more the kindness, modesty and above all humour which she showed towards us lesser mortals, her fellow singers.

Richard Greager, tenor

What can I say about Joan Sutherland? A megastar, an icon, La Stupenda. She was all those and more. But to me she was a real person and talked to me especially when I performed in Il trovatore with her. I really got to know her. She became a real friend and helped me enormously. I shall never forget her kindness and words of support when I first sang for the Company in 1983.

Kenneth Collins, tenor

To have shared the operatic stage with Dame Joan was a rare and treasured privilege. My memories of her years with the Company will always be associated with the unfailing beauty and sheen of her voice; of professionalism and dedication; of her relaxed demeanor, even in the most trying circumstances; and finally of a warm, generous colleague.

Anson Austin OAM, tenor

My first association with Joan was back in 1965 when I was a very young Baron Duphol to her Violetta in La traviata in the Sutherland-Williamson Grand Opera Company. I was very much in awe of her amazing voice and presence, and then later in my career I was privileged to work with her in Lucia di Lammermoor, Il trovatore, Norma, I puritani and Hamlet, where I always found her to be a colleague with great understanding, mateship and professionalism. She was a truly amazing person.

Donald Shanks AO, OBE, bass

When I arrived in London in 1966 to study at the London Opera Centre, I knew almost nobody. A short time later, I was told to be at a master class, conducted by Richard Bonynge - which made me somewhat nervous - and even more so when I discovered the great Joan Sutherland was to be there as well.

But the two people could not have been more friendly and encouraging. The advice they gave me at that very first meeting changed the direction of my career and gave me both inspiration and confidence.

Three years later, when I finished my course at the Opera Centre, I was offered the chance to be a supporting soloist at the Royal Festival Hall, and for the first time I stood on stage with Dame Joan for a concert performance of Alcina - which for a young recent student was an awe-inspiring experience. But that great lady was totally supportive - and remained so for all four decades that I came to know her.

There can be no doubt that hers was a unique voice - the greatest of its time. But her audiences didn't necessarily know the great lady behind that voice. She was friendly, approachable, honest, generous with her time and supportive to younger colleagues. Joan's focus was only on presenting the finest quality of music, and her wonderful offstage personality was a bonus.

As a singer she had no rivals. When she sang, it was the sound of heaven.

As a person, she brought pleasure just by being in the room. It will be a very long time before we hear such a voice again.

And as well as that we are also saying goodbye to a marvellous woman.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa ONZ, DBE, AC, soprano

Joan's supreme artistry has given incalculable pleasure to countless thousands around the world. Nobody lucky enough to have heard her in the flesh will ever forget the sheer visceral thrill of her performances. We, along with those who didn't hear her live, have been hugely enriched by her astonishing legacy of great recordings. The magnificent and timeless Sutherland voice now lives on, unforgotten, in the grateful memory of so many. Wherever she is now, we hope Joan is singing away, doing those breathtaking vocal leaps and trills that we will never forget, running around performing mad scenes, and, of course, nailing those high E-flats every time.

Anthony Freud, General Director and CEO;
Patrick Summers, Music Director
Houston Grand Opera

Treasured memories come to mind about performing with Joan - to be standing next to her on stage was truly amazing, as the magnificence of her voice resonated throughout her whole body and its energy radiated to her fellow artists, inspiring our own performances. Joan possessed a wicked sense of humour, was always down to earth and loyal and supportive to her colleagues. Not only the greatest voice of the 20th Century but Joan was a wonderful human being and I was privileged to have known and worked with her for many years.

Jennifer Bermingham OAM, mezzo-soprano

Joan Sutherland had no qualms about singing anything. With a superb technique built in a lifetime of dedication to her art, she was an inspiration to work with. To sing with Dame Joan Sutherland lifted one's own performance to another level, and I will never forget the honour and privilege of working with her. Thank you Joan.

Lauris Elms AM, OBE, mezzo-soprano

Simply put, Dame Joan was Australia’s greatest opera singer. She was hailed around the world as La Stupenda, was a fine ambassador for Australia and made an extraordinary contribution to opera both here in Australia and internationally.

Lyndon Terracini, Artistic Director, Opera Australia

I asked her in the second act of Die Fledermaus to dance part of the czardas. She said, "Are you crazy? Dancing it and singing it at the same time? You must be joking." Then she’d go ahead and do it. She was very game.

Lotfi Mansouri, director

What can one say? Joan Sutherland not only possessed the greatest voice of the 20th century she was also brilliant, clever, witty and the most professional colleague with whom I ever worked. What a privilege it has been for me to sing in eleven different operas over the years with our wonderful Dame Joan! A singer of her stature with the ability to create great characters on stage is a rarity.

Robert Allman AM, OBE, baritone

A wonderful colleague, a very funny and lovely lady. It was the thrill of a lifetime to have known her and to have sung with her. Thank you, Joan, for filling my life with such a wealth of wonderful memories and pleasures.

Robert Gard OBE, tenor

"School's never out," she always said. I consider myself fortunate to have known Joan Sutherland as a colleague and friend. All those happy memories of wonderful performances. Sharing the thrill and beauty of her extraordinary vocal art. Her masterly technique, a lesson to us all. A light has been extinguished. I will miss you, dearest Joan.

Graeme Ewer AM, tenor

Joan Sutherland is certainly the greatest voice of the century.

The late Luciano Pavarotti, tenor

Dame Joan's unique God-given gift has been an inspiration for me throughout my career and thanks to her recordings, will be inspiring many singers for years to come. She is greatly missed, but her voice lives on.

Cheryl Barker, soprano

Whenever Joan sang, there was always an incredible awareness amongst all those present, that we were hearing something very special and magical, especially in her dazzling displays of coloratura. I am extremely fortunate to have been part of this wonderful experience.

Clifford Grant OAM, bass

Dame Joan Sutherland was not only one of the greatest singers ever but a true artist in every sense. Her dedication to her art was exemplary and the legacy of La Stupenda will be with us always.

Peter Coleman-Wright, baritone

I remember standing on stage near Joan each night during the Bell Song in Lakmé, thinking that I must never become blasé about being so close to such supreme art. My good fortune in being her colleague was sweetened all the more by her endearing warmth, wit and friendliness. For me, an honour and a pleasure.

John Pringle AM, baritone

It is an honour for Opera Australia to arrange the program for Dame Joan's State Memorial Service. Her stellar talent, and the time she and her husband Richard Bonynge invested in Australia, inspired both a great audience for opera and the development of so many fine Australian artists. We would not have a modern company of such depth and significance without her example.

Adrian Collette AM, Chief Executive, Opera Australia

Her voice and career have been like a beacon for all of us. I can't imagine that anyone in the history of all singing was ever better. Thank you for all you gave to us, and to me especially.

Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano

Dame Joan Sutherland inspired not only with her voice, but with her love and appreciation of all who worked with her. She gave us such joy. Her voice could melt the coldest of hearts. Her bel canto heroines set a bench mark for all who will follow. Thank you Dame Joan for all you taught me, for making me laugh and for making me cry. Rest in Peace, La Stupenda.

Emma Matthews, soprano