Alumni News Articles

Vale Dame Joan Sutherland OM AC DBE Australian of the Year 1961

12 October 2010


World-renowned opera singer and iconic Australian, Dame Joan Sutherland, has passed away at her home in Switzerland aged 83.

Born in Sydney, Dame Joan studied piano and voice with her mother from a young age. In 1951 she won Australia’s pre-eminent opera competition the ‘Sun Aria’ before moving to London to study at the Royal College of Music. Sutherland’s breakthrough performance came at London’s Covent Garden in 1959 in the title role of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Her critically acclaimed performance quickly attracted invitations to perform the role in Paris, Milan and New York, yet she always remained a down-to-earth Australian.

When the Australia Day Council Chairman Sir Norman Martin named her the 1961 Australian of the Year, he praised her talents and her role positioning Australian arts on the world stage.

“She is the Nellie Melba of our time, no doubt about that,” he said.

“Joan Sutherland has restored Australia to the glittering centre of the musical world.”

Dame Joan was a leading international soprano for three decades before her retirement in 1990. Luciano Pavarotti once described her voice as ‘certainly the greatest voice this century’.

But it is perhaps the name the Italians gave her which best reflects her enormous talent, her warm personality, the respect and admiration she will always have among Australians and the place she holds in Australian history – ‘La Stupenda’.

The National Australia Day Council’s thoughts are with Dame Joan’s family and friends.