Joan Sutherland was the first operatic soprano I ever knew. My passion for opera began with a 1971 Decca recording of Verdi’s Rigoletto in which Joan played Gilda opposite Pavarotti’s Duke of Mantua. Although never a master of diction, Sutherland had an unforgettable voice with a natural flair for coloratura passages.

Joan Sutherland

The Australian soprano was born in 1926 and made her stage debut in 1951. Known for her powerful yet responsive and versatile voice that could zero-in on staccatos like nobody’s business, Sutherland was called the “voice of the century” by her friend Luciano Pavarotti. She was a bel canto master, singing (and recording) virtually all the great roles in this genre from the early 19th century, often with her husband, Richard Bonynge, leading the orchestra.

One of her signature roles was Lucia in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Watch her rock this greatest of mad scenes