Joan Sutherland: Classic Australian Performances (2 CD set), ABC Classics 476 3963

In 2000 and 2001, ABC Classics released The Best of Joan Sutherland: Live from the Sydney Opera House, (Volumes 1 and 2) with the Elizabethan Sydney Orchestra conducted by Richard Bonynge. Ten years on, these two discs have been re-packaged in one box set as Classic Australian Performances.

Now a year since the passing of the greatest operatic soprano, these recordings are a priceless legacy of the supreme singing that came from Dame Joan. Words can barely describe the sense of wonder, passion and sheer excitement at experiencing the magic that is La Stupenda.

Spanning a 40+ year career, Sutherland made her first professional performance in a concert version of Handel’s Samson at the Sydney Town Hall, followed the year later with her first appearance in a fully staged opera of Eugene Goossens’s Judith at the Sydney Conservatorium.

From there it was onto London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and most of the great opera houses and companies of the world, including Glyndebourne, Vancouver, La Scala, San Francisco, San Diego, and of course the Sydney Opera House and Opera Australia.

Singing with the greatest singers (Pavarotti, Domingo, Milnes, Horne, Caballe to name but a few) and conductors the world over, her life and career was truly marvellous. Whilst mostly played out in Europe and America, Sutherland’s was a life in which she never lost her uniquely Australian qualities and sense of home. She sang in an estimated 265 performances of 23 different roles with the Australian Opera.

Along with her enormous recorded catalogue, these uniquely Australian recordings of live performances from the Sydney Opera House from 1976 to 1988 will remain as unique treasures in the opera world. They include Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (perhaps her most famous role ever), Lucrezia Borgia, The Daugher of the Regiment, Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, Bellini’s Norma, Verdi’s Il trovatore, Delibes’s Lakme, Lehar’s The Merry Widow, Strauss’s Die Fledermaus and Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites.

In these excerpts can be experienced Sutherland’s sense of drama through to her humour, as well as her stratospheric vocal range and unbelievable coloratura in all its glory!