Joan Sutherland, 1926-2010

Joan Sutherland has died, the Telegraph and others newspapers report.

Critics will vault among the superlatives in a quest to identify her essence. For me, it was a matter of purity. Nothing emanating from another human voice will likely approach that sound again.


“She was a legend, certainly, because she and her husband brought back to life the bel canto school – those operas, and her voice was extraordinary. It changed the way we listen to singing and the way we teach singing,” said mezzo and Curtis Institute of Music vocal teacher Marlena Kleinman Malas.

Her first time hearing Sutherland was in 1958 - before her famed 1959 Zeffirelli Lucia di Lammermoor production conducted by Tullio Serafin.

“I was at Covent Garden listening to Carmen, and this woman in a big blue cloak came out, and the sound just enveloped the entire theater with such warmth and quality,” said Malas, whose husband, bass-baritone Spiro Malas, would become a frequent Sutherland collaborator. “I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Then she went on to do Lucia and the rest is history.”

Anthony P. Checchia, artistic director of the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, remembers hearing Sutherland in the Academy of Music in La Traviata with the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company (she performed with the troupe several times in the 1960s and ‘70s).

“It was astounding,” he said.