By 1981, when this production was taped for Canadian television, Joan Sutherland's voice was unquestionably past its prime. But even in its decline, that voice remained something quite special, and the role of the troubled Druid priestess Norma was one of her specialties. A substantial advantage in this recording is the presence at the podium of her husband and coach, Richard Bonynge, who had a deep understanding of the strengths and limitations of her voice and stage persona. His pacing and balance give the voice opportunities to challenge, at least momentarily, the ravages of time. Lotfi Mansouri, one of the great operatic entrepreneurs of the late 20th century, assembled a first-class supporting cast for Sutherland–most notably Tatiana Troyanos, to whose memory this video is dedicated. The performance of Troyanos in the role of the younger and equally troubled priestess Adalgisa is outstanding and would make this disc worth having even without its documentation of Sutherland. As far as it is possible to determine, this is the only video opera appearance of tenor Francisco Ortiz. On the basis of his performance as the Roman officer Pollione, he seems to have deserved more attention. Bass Justino Diaz gives a sterling performance as the old Druid Oroveso. (Joe McLellan)
Lucia di Lammermoor catapulted Joan Sutherland to international fame in 1959. It is a role with which her name is now inextricably linked and one which provides a perfect showcase for her remarkable vocal agility and acting ability. Set in the misty moors of Scotland, Lucia di Lammermoor is based on the novel by Sir Walter Scott. It is a tragic tale of star-crossed lovers separated by a family feud. In Gaetano Donizetti's dark, romantic opera, the forces of hate tear the young couple apart, leading to madness and murder. Richard Greager, Malcolm Donnelly, Joan Sutherland. Directed by John Copley, conducted by Richard Bonynge.
Bellini’s Norma contains one of the most impressive and also most difficult soprano roles in the whole repertoire of opera. Few sopranos can do justice to it. The first of those who have must surely be Maria Callas, considered the outstanding interpreter of the title part. The role, along with Bellini"s opera, was interpreted in a revolutionary fashion by Joan Sutherland (born in Sydney 1926). She is the protagonist in the present recording made at the Sydney Opera House in August 1978. "La Stupenda", as Joan Sutherland was known in musical circles, ended her international career in 1990. The celebrated production by Sandro Sequi, with Fiorella Mariani"s lavish décor and costumes, concentrates entirely on the human destiny of a woman on the edge of her existence. He intelligently brings forth the priestess’ emotional world, hence showing the many facets of Norma"s character. The whole drama of events on the stage is reflected in the orchestra pit, and musical director Richard Bonynge demonstrates once again his competence for great musical theatre.
Joan Sutherland was at the height of her career when she took on the role of Leonora – arguably the most dramatic of all Verdi heroines – in 1983. Elijah Moshinsky’s production, in which he was ably supported by the Australian artist Sidney Nolans (set design), Luciana Arrighi (costumes) and Nick Chelton (lighting), was tailor-made for Sutherland, allowing Leonora to develop into a truly tragic heroine occupying the opera’s central ground. This performance at the Australian Opera, Sydney – and featuring a high quality cast under the baton of Richard Bonynge – was recorded by Australian Television on 2nd July 1983. Verdi’s powerful and passionate opera tells a tale of civil war and treachery.
Dame Joan Sutherland and tenor Alfredo Kraus star in Donizetti's tale of sixteenth century opulence and decadence. Joan Sutherland is unquestionably the unsurpassed Lucrezia of all-time, and this production at Covent Garden showcases her incomparable coloratura technique. Bel canto specialist Richard Bonynge conducts The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in this historic performance.
The Metropolitan Opera performance of Lucia Di Lammermoor features Joan Sutherland in a triumphant return to the Met after a four year absence. Dame Joan gives a performance of astounding facility and musical sensitivity. Gaetano Donizetti's tragic masterpiece is based on Sir Walter Scott's novel, The Bride of Lammermoor, a brooding tale of love, murder, and vengeance set in seventeenth-century Scotland. Taped live in its entirety on November 13, 1982.
It would have been better, of course, if this 1984 production of Donizetti's Anna Bolena, or at least its title role, had been filmed 20 years earlier, when Joan Sutherland's voice was in its spectacular prime. But like her Canadian Opera Norma, dating from 1981, this is a better-late-than-never documentation of one of the most remarkable voices of the 20th century.–Joe McLellan