Dame Joan Sutherland’s personal selection of her favourite recordings, with her own liner notes. Tributes from Moffatt Oxenbould and Fiona Janes, previously unpublished photographs, a series of costume designs for her key operatic roles, and illustrations of all the original jackets from which the selection was made. Plus her recipe for Christmas Pudding, all issued to commemorate the tenth anniversary of her passing.
With barely a shadow of permissible exaggeration, ‘The Voice of the Century’ was Decca’s title for a 1977 compilation of arias from the defining roles sung by Dame Joan Sutherland. On her death in 2010, Opera magazine acclaimed her still as ‘one of the voices of the century’ who almost single-handedly – with the support of her husband and mentor, Richard Bonynge – restored the bel canto repertoire to the opera house. Now, a decade on, Eloquence releases Sutherland’s personal selection of her own favourite recordings, from a Decca catalogue studded with award-winning albums.
What makes this particular collection unique, and an essential acquisition for all who treasure their memories of the supreme successor to Melba, is Dame Joan’s introductions to each item. Choosing them, she could look back over a career spanning more than 40 years, from her career-launching competition win in Sydney in 1949 singing ‘Ritorna vincitor’ to her first Alcina in 1957 – at St. Pancras Town Hall, of all places, and her famous Royal Opera Lucia in 1959 that floored the critics.
However, Dame Joan’s selection does not include such vocal blockbusters – though with the Queen of Night’s ‘O zittre nicht’ there is a nod to her unheralded Royal Opera debut in 1952 as the First Lady in Die Zauberflöte. Rather than her fearless negotiation of their Mad Scenes, she chose passages of moving recovery from Norma and La sonnambula, and in doing so generously acknowledges her partnership of warm mutual understanding with Marilyn Horne. Nevertheless, there is plenty of her pinpoint coloratura to be enjoyed, from Massenet’s Esclarmonde – along with Norma, her favourite opera – to Graun’s Montezuma and Glière’s Concerto: ‘such a relief not to have to remember the words’.
Sutherland took particular pride in her revival of rarities such as Leoni’s L’Oracolo, but her choice of favourites concludes in lighter vein with songs by Arditi, Hahn and Kreisler which beguiled as well as dazzled her recital audiences: ‘Trifles, perhaps, but I enjoyed singing them’. She recalls living next to and working with Noël Coward – ‘I think he was quite pleased with me!’ – and finally pays tribute to her musical education in Sydney with ‘Love will find a way’ from The Maid of the Mountains. All in all, it’s a unique journey through Dame Joan’s life and career, enhanced by several tributes from her colleagues, previously unpublished photographs and rarely seen costume designs for ‘La Stupenda’ in many of her signature roles.
1 GRAUN Montezuma: Non han calma le mie pene
2 MOZART Die Zauberflöte: O zittre nicht
3–4 BELLINI Norma: Mira, O Norma – Si, fino all’ore estreme compagna tua m’avrai
5 BELLINI La sonnambula: Ah! non giunge
6 VERDI Attila: Santo di patria…allor che i forti corrono
7 MASSENET Esclarmonde: Esprits de l’air … Roland ! Roland ! Roland !
8 LEONI L’oracolo: Ferito … L’hanno ferito
9 LECOCQ Le Cœur et la Main: Un soir Perez le capitaine
10 OFFENBACH Robinson Crusoé: Conduisez-moi vers celui que j’adore
11 ARDITI Il bacio
12 HAHN Si mes vers avaient des ailes
13 GLIÈRE Concerto for Coloratura and Orchestra: I. Andante
14 GOUNOD Repentir (O Divine Redeemer)
15 KREISLER Sissy – The King Steps Out: Stars in my eyes
16 COWARD Operette: Countess Mitzi
17 BENEDICT The Gypsy and the Bird
18 FRASER-SIMSON The Maid of the Mountains: Love will find a way
Dame Joan Sutherland, soprano
Richard Bonynge, conductor
Recording Producers: David Harvey (Montezuma); Christopher Raeburn (Die Zauberflöte, Attila, Concerto for Coloratura and Orchestra); Christopher Raeburn (Norma); Ray Minshull, Michael Bremner (La sonnamubula); Michael Woolcock, James Mallinson (Esclarmonde); James Mallinson (L’oracolo); Mordler (Le Cœur et la Main, Robinsoe Crusoé, Si mes vers avaient des ailes); Michael Bremner (Il bacio, The Gypsy and the Bird); Ray Minshull (O Divine Redeemer); Christopher Raeburn, Erik Smith (The Maid of the Mountains, The King Steps Out); John Culshaw (Operette)
Balance Engineers: Kenneth Wilkinson (Montezuma); Arthur Lilley, Arthur Bannister (Die Zauberflöte); James Lock (Norma); Roy Wallace, Kenneth Wilkinson (La sonnambula); Arthur Lilley (Attila); James Lock, Philip Wade (Esclarmonde); Simon Eadon, James Lock, Philip Wade (L’oracolo); James Lock (Le Cœur et la Main, Robinson Crusoé); Kenneth Wilkinson, Michael Mailes, Arthur Lilley (Il bacio, The Gypsy and the Bird); Kenneth Wilkinson, James Lock, Peter van Biene (Si mes vers avaient des ailes); Gordon Parry (Concerto for Coloratura and Orchestra, Operette); Kenneth Wilkinson, James Lock (O Divine Redeemer); Kenneth Wilkinson, James Lock, Gordon Parry (The Maid of the Mountains, The King Steps Out)
Recording Locations: Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 26, 27 & 29 October–3 November 1962 (Il bacio, The Gypsy and the Bird); 25–29 June 1963 (Attila); 10, 27, 28 & 31 May 1965 (O Divine Redeemer); 10, 11, 14, 16 March, 12 & 18–20 July 1966 (The Maid of the Mountains, The King Steps Out); 21–23, 26, 29, 30 March, 1 April & 2 September 1966 (Montezuma); 22, 28, 31 March, 2 April & 5 July 1966 (Operette); 8–9 May 1968 (Concerto for Coloratura and Orchestra); 10, 14, 19 & 22 August 1972 (Si mes vers avaient des ailes); 2–5 & 9–15 July 1975 (Esclarmonde); 6 July–4
September 1975 (L’oracolo); Decca Studio No.3 West Hampstead, London, UK, 7, 11, 13, 16 & 20 June 1963 (Die Zauberflöte); Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London, UK, June/July 1964 (Norma); Teatro Pergola, Florence, Italy, 8–19 September, 1962 (La sonnambula); Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, 31 August, 4, 6, 7, 9, 18, 20–21 September 1969 (Le Cœur et la Main, Robinson Crusoé)
Remastering Engineer: Chris Bernauer
“Callas is wonderful, yes, but the one to keep your eye on is the girl singing Clotilde.” Edward J. Dent
“Nothing touched ‘Mira, o Norma’… I still can’t walk down the street in New York without someone coming up to me and saying they will never forget our partnership.” Marilyn Horne
“[Sutherland] was one of the greatest singers of the last century, possessed of a voice second to none: warm even, flexible, large and wide-ranging, always used to musical and dramatic ends. It was a thrilling and glorious sound.” Sir John Tooley
“She was a dab hand at charming the listener in Noël Coward numbers, operetta and songs from the 19th century. In all these one felt she could relax and enjoy herself.” Opera