Dame Joan Sutherland passed away this weekend.
I love opera whenever I hear it, though I have only a layman’s casual knowledge of that musical world — pretty much limited to the most famous operas, the most popular arias, the most acclaimed singers. But of those singers, Joan Sutherland ranks among the highest in my estimation. I remember listening to some bel canto recordings for a music history course in college, and being absolutely flabbergasted by Sutherland’s soprano in the “mad scene” of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor — the clear crystalline tone and the ornate trills, creating a sublime architecture of sound, an impossible vocal cathedral.
I had no idea the human voice could do anything like that. To this day, when I listen to that piece — especially her duet with the flute (starting at 3:14 in the video), a joyous virtuosic display of precision and clarity and sheer beauty — I have to pick up my jaw off the floor afterward. Such a voice is truly a gift to the world.
Celeste Headlee of The Takeaway gives a fuller appreciation here.
Update: John Schaefer of Soundcheck has another appreciation, with more excerpts from her recordings. Just listen to that voice!