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Joan Sutherland (1926 - 2010)


Sutherland’s father, a tailor of Scottish descent, died when she was six years old leaving his family with little means of support. Her mother, who had herself received voice lessons and was a keen amateur vocalist and pianist, taught her daughter to sing; while other family members regaled her with music-hall songs and recordings of the great singers of the past such as Caruso and her compatriot Dame Nellie Melba. Although Sutherland sang at school, after leaving she learnt typing and shorthand and took a secretarial job with an agricultural supplies firm. In her late teens however she gained a scholarship to study singing formally with John and Aida Dickens in Sydney.

In 1947 Sutherland made her concert debut as Dido / Dido and Aeneas (Purcell) at Sydney Town Hall and two years later won the Sun Aria Competition, Australia’s most important singing contest. She was cast by Sir Eugene Goossens in the title role of his opera Judith for its first performances at the Sydney Conservatorium in 1951, the year in which she sailed for England accompanied by her mother and entered the Royal College of Music to study with Clive Carey.

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