Joan Sutherland (1926–2010). The world-renowned soprano Joan Sutherland left her Sydney home for London in 1952, with the ultimate aim of singing Wagner.
17 February 1959 is a date wired into the brains of many opera lovers. For that night Joan Sutherland’s triumph in Franco Zeffirelli’s new, Covent Garden production of Lucia di Lammermoor turned her from a local favourite into a global celebrity, the brightest star in the firmament of young bel canto singers, breathing fresh life into a genre Wagnerians had declared dead.
Overnight success turned a plain-speaking Sydney girl into ‘La Stupenda’, queen of the operatic stage until her retirement over 30 years later.
This double album, taken from the Itter Collection of BBC radio recordings, presents an important staging post on the road to supremacy – the 1957 broadcast of an abridged version of Donizetti’s Emilia di Liverpool – plus a selection of bel canto broadcasts made during the 18 months following her Covent Garden coup.
The great night itself is represented – how else? – by Sutherland’s ‘Mad Scene’ from the 26 February broadcast, conducted by the veteran Italian maestro Tullio Serafin, another key player in the final moves of this long-range game of operatic chess.