Walter Mencken 11:47 a.m., May 30
Joan Sutherland, Who Helped Build San Diego Opera, Dead at 83
Soprano Joan Sutherland, known as the best opera singer of her time, and perhaps the greatest soprano of the 20th century, died yesterday (Oct. 10) at age 83 at her home in Geneva. She and her husband, conductor Richard Bonynge, were instrumental in the growth of San Diego Opera. She sang her signature role of Lucia in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor in 1974 in a performance conducted by Bonynge. She sang in other San Diego Opera performances conducted by Bonynge: Verdi's I Masnadieri (1984), Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur (1983) and Johann Strauss's Die Fledermaus (1980), in which she was paired with the late Beverly Sills in a widely-celebrated event. Sutherland also appeared in three concerts for San Diego Opera: in 1987, 1981 and 1975.
She retired in 1990. Bonynge conducted a number of operas in San Diego after her retirement: Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor (2006); Bellini's Norma (2003); Gounod's Faust (2001); Puccini's La Boheme (2000); Gounod's Romeo and Juliet (1998); Bizet's Carmen (1997); Verdi's La traviata (1997); Bellini's La Sonnambula (1994); Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann (1994); Massenet's Werther (1993); Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites (1990) and Donizett's Daughter of the Regiment (1990).
Sutherland was a good friend of Ian Campbell, general director and artistic director of San Diego Opera. Both were originally from Australia. Campbell is also a good friend of Bonynge. Sutherland was credited with discovering and promoting tenor Luciano Pavarotti, then virtually unknown. Pavarotti also appeared in San Diego Opera productions, including La Boheme.