Opera great Joan Sutherland dies aged 83

Mon Oct 11, 2010 2:05pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Australian opera star Joan Sutherland, known by her legion of fans as "La Stupenda," has died in Switzerland aged 83.

Her family said the soprano, once described by Luciano Pavarotti as "the greatest voice of the century," passed away peacefully in the early hours of Sunday morning after suffering a long illness.

She died in Switzerland where she had retired to live near Montreux.

"She's a very important person all over the world, but for us this is our family and we're just trying to come to terms with this," her daughter-in-law Helen told the Sydney Morning Herald, an Australian daily.

Leading figures in music paid tribute to the singer, best known for the bel canto operas of Donizetti and Bellini.

"She actually was 'Stupenda'," said Antonio Pappano, music director at the Royal Opera in London.

"A lovely human being who could sing anybody off the stage. And I mean anybody. What she did for bel canto music and its technique cannot be underestimated. We have lost one of the true greats."

The daughter of a gifted singer, Sutherland studied piano and voice with her mother, and made her singing debut in a concert performance of Henry Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas" in Sydney in 1947.   Continued...

<p>2004 Honoree soprano Joan Sutherland arrives for the Kennedy Center gala performance at the Kennedy Center, December 5, 2004 in Washington. REUTERS/Mike Theiler MT</p>