Friday, April 24, 2009

Joan Sutherland (Thanks Fe)


I'm thinking Joan Sutherland is an opera singer. Maybe?

It would be fitting; because Jack and I watched Arthur yesterday; and it was about Opera.

Okay. I think she is that. I'm not an expert at Opera terms. But Lord Wiki says she is a Soprano. So, at least I know she's a singer. I'm guessing it's opera.

Link
She was born on 7 November 1926.

Birthday website time!

She's a Scorpio. And like Barry Humphries, my sister, and my nephew....she's a 9. The Humanitarian.

I feel like I might get lost in this research. I really don't know anything about opera; well, except what I learned on Arthur yesterday.

Baby Joan was born in Sydney. She went to St. Catherine's School which is located in Waverly. I'm not sure if I've heard of Waverly. I have to look that up.

I'm having some challenges here. There's a Waverley town in New South Wales, way far from Sydney. Apparently there's an also eastern suburb in Sydney with the same name. I can't really find it on Google Maps, but Lord Wiki says it's seven miles east of the CBD.

I don't even know if Sutherland lived there though. Maybe it's just the location of her school.

Sutherland learned to sing from her mother. Her mother was a mezzo-soprano. She studied singing, but never really did anything professionally. What's a mezzo-soprano? Lord Wiki says it's a middle soprano. I'm guessing that means she had a high voice, but less high than a regular soprano. Maybe?

At the age of eighteen, Sutherland started more formal music training.

At the age of twenty-one she made her concert debut in an opera called Dido and AEneas. It's an hour long opera. I'm noting this because on Arthur yesterday we were taught that some operas go on for hours and hours and hours. Who can sit that long?

A few years later Sutherland won a big huge important opera competition in Australia called Sun Aria. Lord Wiki says this is now called the Herald Sun-Aria. It's held in Ballarat every year. My friend lives there! I don't know if it's always been held there. Oh wait. It's done in stages. The first parts are done in Ballarat. Then the final is done in Melbourne at Hamer Hall.

After winning, Sutherland did what Barry Humphries did. She fled to London. She went to the Royal College of Music. In the UK, she performed in Mozart's The Magic Flute. Cool. A composer I recognize! Next she was in an opera called Norma. This seems to be about an asshole named Pollione. From what I'm reading, it seems in these operas, Sutherland didn't have the leading role. I guess she was more like a supporting player.

She had her first leading role in 1952. This was in Un Ballo in Maschera. It's an historically inaccurate account of the assassination of a Swedish king. Well, that's what it was originally. Later they changed the setting to America.

Lord Wiki lists a bunch of performances Sutherland was in. I'm not going to list all of them.

I'll jump to her personal life. She got married to a conductor/pianist named Richard Bonynge in 1954. It seems he had been her music coach at some point.

They had a baby in 1956. Little Adam. Lord Wiki doesn't link his name so I'm guessing he didn't become famous. Bonynge encouraged Sutherland to switch from Wagnerian to Bel Canto. What does that mean? Hell do I know. I THINK it's about her being able to sing high notes.

Sutherland had her big break in 1959. I guess she would have been about thirty-three. She performed at the Royal Opera House in an opera called Lucia di Lammermoor. There's a famous scene in that opera called the Mad Scene. I guess it's good for displaying one's superb musical talent. It seems Sutherland did quite well with it. The scene made her a star.

Cool. YouTube has her performance of the Mad Scene. It's from 1960.

1960 seems to be a big year for Sutherland. She did some touring...France, Italy, and even my own little country.

Sutherland had some kind of drama with the Metropolitan Opera. I'm a bit confused with Lord Wiki's description. And I'm not sure where the Metropolitan Opera is. There's one in NYC. I guess that might be what they're talking about.

In 1965, she toured Australia. All of her performances sold-out.

In the 1970's, Sutherland tried improving her diction. I guess she was told it wasn't good enough. I saw a bit of a British reality show the other day. It was one of those talent contest things. They were looking for someone to star in Joseph and the Amazing Dreamcoat. One of the criticisms they gave a singer was his diction wasn't so great.

I had to look up diction to make sure it's what I thought it was. It is. It's pronunciation. Making sure you can be understood.

There was some question of what happened to Sutherland's Diction. It was fine in the beginning and then went downhill. Some people blamed it on sinus surgery she had in 1959. But people who studied her singing before and after the surgery say there's no difference. Her husband believed the diction problems occurred when she tried to hit certain notes. Or maybe? I don't know. It's something called Perfect Legato. Okay, maybe it's not about hitting a note. It's about making the notes all run together smoothly. It's a bit confusing for me.

Sutherland worked hard and was able to improve her diction.

I have to say that so far I feel a great distance from this woman. I don't feel I know anything about her really. I just know about her singing. I want to know more. I mean I know singing is probably the most important part of her life. But she must be more than just that.

Well, I say that and now I'm getting to the end of her career.

In the late 1970's her voice began to decline a bit, but she still managed to perform well.

In 1990 she had her last performance. It took place at the Sydney Opera House.

Lord Wiki says though that her last public appearance was New Years Eve at Covent Gardens in the UK. I'm not sure what the difference is between last performance and last appearance. Maybe she appeared in the gardens, but didn't sing?

In her retirement years, Sutherland has kept a quiet life in Switzerland. I wondered why she chose that country.

Oh! Finally. I have some controversy. In 1994, she did a speech for The Australians for Constitutional Monarchy. In that speech, she complained that when she went to renew her passport, she was interviewed by someone of Asian/Indian background. Ah, it seems Sutherland is a bit racist.

Oh well. I shouldn't make rash judgments until I read more.

Okay. What she said is, When I go to the post office to be interviewed by a Chinese or an Indian—I'm not particularly racist—but I find it ludicrous, when I've had a passport for 40 year

Well, I don't know if she's a racist, but what she said was racist. Does that make sense? I don't know.

She did later apologize for her remarks.

Celebrities end up having to make a lot of public apologies.

Well, we all do. I guess.

We all make mistakes.

In 1997, she published her autobiography. It didn't get favorable reviews. Or at least that's what Lord Wiki says. The NY Times liked the book.

In 2007, she did an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian. She complained the young opera singers of today lacked technique. Is that true, or is it just that nostalgia stuff we hear. The movies of today are all crap. The music today all sounds like shit.

Do things really get worse, or do we just cling to how things used to be?

Sutherland is a judge on a BBC singing competition called Cardiff Singer of the World.

In July 2008, Sutherland fell down while gardening. She broke both her legs. Ouch.

Okay. I'm going to leave Lord Wiki now.

Let's see what else we can find.

This website has a lot of photos of Sutherland. She looks like quite a diva.

Here's a romantic website about Sutherland and her husband. It doesn't say much that I haven't learned from Lord Wiki. It talks about the struggles of being an opera singer. It's not just about having a perfect voice. You also have to be able to act, dance, and all the other fun stuff. I like how Sutherland's husband supported her and pushed her to become her best. I was thinking about support the other days in terms of parenting Jack. I thought of how I'm not like two types of parents. The first is the type who never praises their child. I don't know if they don't recognize their child has talent, or if they believe the child already knows they have a talent and doesn't need to be reminded. Well, of course he dances good. We all know that. But let's not say anything. We don't want him to get a huge ego.

Then the other parent just blindly praises their child. Everything their child does is WONDERFUL. You're such a great artist! You sing so good! You're the best soccer player I know!

I don't fit in any of the above catagories. I give Jack a lot of praise, but I try to be honest about it. If I find he's not that good at something, I'll try to remind him that he's better at something else. Well, hula hoops are really not your thing....yet. But you're really good at geography. We've been playing a sport game together lately. I tell him that he's good at speed and if he uses that, he'll beat me. But when he relies on strength, I don't fake weakness so he can win. I beat him. I tell him right now, I'm better at him with speed. Also, sometimes I'll say things to him like I like that, but I like the other one you did better.

I think this is what Bonynge did for his wife. He supported her, but it was true support. He paid attention to her abilities and from that understood what direction she should take. Of course, it could have backfired. One can push someone in the wrong direction. That's why I think it should always be gentle pushes and never controlling forceful ones. I don't see Jack as being very skilled in athletics. He's more of an intellectual. I guide him more in that direction. But I recognize the fact that I could be wrong. He could end up surprising us.

Now I'm going to read an interview on ABC. Maybe it will help me know this woman better.

Sutherland claims her voice is less soprano these days and more baritone. Lord Wiki says baritone is the most common type of male voice. Thanks for the info, Lord Wiki.

She's still married. Well, at least she was in 2005 when this interview was done.

She sang a lot during her childhood. That's not surprising.

I'm getting that her mom was a widower and remarried. Sutherland had two step-siblings and a sister. Also, from what Sutherland says, her mother had the talent to be a professional singer. I guess she just didn't have the interest and motivation.

They lived in Woollahra. I have heard of that. I probably saw it on the map when we were walking to Moore Park. It's right near there.

Before she really got into the singing thing, she was a secretary. The interviewer says the people she worked for must be surprised that she became Dame Joan Sutherland; and Sutherland says she still sometimes gets cards from them. That's sweet.

Her nickname/label was La Stupenda. It sounds like an insult to me, but it's actually a good thing. It means wonderful and marvelous.

She agrees with me about her husband. She says he was important to her career.

The interviewer mentions beautiful singing and Sutherland says, We don't get that much of it today dear, believe me. This woman seems a bit negative. I can imagine she's someone who complains a lot.

She said her favorite opera to perform in was Norma. I just checked back with Lord Wiki. She did the opera again in 1963; this time having the title role.

Her favorite language for opera is Italian. French comes in second. She says, German becomes too guttural; too many consonants as with English but the French and Italian flow so beautifully.

Okay. Here she's more positive. She says, I've always admired all my other colleagues and I think I've received great admiration and respect from them.

When asked why she no longer performs she says, For goodness sake dear, I'm 78. I don't want to get up and sing with what I might have, what I might have called a voice now. Gracious me, I retired and that was it. That makes sense to me. She talks about how it's not just your voice that ages, but also your diaphragm and lungs. You need all those for singing.

She says she does hum, and that's about it. The interviewer asks Sutherland to hum for them. It makes me kind of sad. I mean maybe it could be this beautiful scene. Sutherland starts humming, realize she can still sing beautifully, and belts out a masterpiece. But what if it didn't turn out that way? What if she hums and it's awful? That would be so sad. I don't think the interviewer should have pressured her to do that. It seems somewhat cruel.

Sutherland declined the offer. She said, No, definitely not, that is a closed book.

She's a strong Monarchist--is not for the Republic. She says, I think that well, Australia as we know it today wouldn't have existed without those people going out in the ships like Governor Phillip and Governor Macquarie and all of them for goodness sake. They did such wonders for the colony. They set aside for instance; the botanical gardens for the use of people and those things have stayed. Those were terribly hard times for those early Brits who tried to colonise this, Australia.   I personally think you can recognize and admire past aspects of British-Australia without keeping it a British Australia.

Oh my.

I don't know if I'm a fan of this woman. I do like her singing even though I don't know much about opera. But as a person.....

Her response to questions about her racist remark are a bit dreadful.

First she says, For heavens sake, this doesn't have to be dragged up every time.Yes, avoid the subject. I think celebrities need to understand that if they say something remarkably racist, it's going to be brought up quite often.

Then when asked if she regrets what she said, Sutherland says I regret doing them in public. It seems  what she's saying is it's okay to be racist as long as you don't say them in public.

Sutherland was angry because she was asked to get identification. I guess she found it insulting that she needed to prove her identity. Does it matter that the person who made her do this was Chinese? Did she have to bring up ethnicity in her complaints.

And I hate when famous people have an ego big enough to expect every single person to recognize them? I mean all of us live under a rock in some way. If I was working some place and a sport star came by, I'd have no idea who it was. I would hope he or she would be patient with that.

Here's a story: I worked at a rather prestigious preschool in Fort Worth. The director was quite a snob. One of the richest families sent their children to the school. One day the grandmother came by to pick up her grandchild. We were required to ask for identification if it wasn't the usual person picking them up. The teacher, in charge, did this for this rich grandmother having no idea who she was. The director got angry about it all....humiliated that one of her teachers couldn't recognize a famous Fort Worth rich person. If I ran into this person on the street, I'd have no idea who she was either.

From what I remember though, the grandmother herself wasn't offended. I think she was glad to know the school had good security.

Well, I went on google news to see if I can find any recent stuff about Sutherland. The latest I can really find is about her fall in July 2008. Oh wait. I just found a big Sutherland website Maybe there will be something exciting here.

No. Nothing really new here. It does have pretty music though.

I guess she really did retire from opera, fame, and all that.

I hope her legs are feeling better and that she's having a peaceful time in Switzerland. I do wonder why she's there and not Australia. Or at least she should be in London. She can hang out with the Queen and other important British monarchy people.








11 comments:

Andrew said...

Not so many black or Chinese people in Switzerland. My memory must be defective. I recall the post office incident along the lines as, 'I never feel quite comfortable when I go to the post office and get served by a black or Chinese person'. Regardless of the accuracy of the quote, suddenly no one was interested in her anymore. She already had a reputation for being a bit too grand about herself. I think that comment just finished her off in the Australian public's opinion.

Dina said...

Andrew,

Maybe she got her passport done at the post office. I think here that's one of the places you can do that stuff. Maybe?

magikquilter said...

I have a different take on la stupenda...and she truly was that in her heyday...magnificent voice.

I was in hospital in Sydney in the late 70's when her sister died in the same ward....Joan came in and it was a difficult time but she was gracious. Her sister's family were from the central coast if I remember correctly

i find the brits way of talking about americans and yanks offensive.....and condescending....racism or plain superiority get me every time.

Andrew said...

I recall it as Dame Joan collecting a parcel, but it matter not much.

Dina said...

magikquilter: I think we all have different sides to us. You got the opportunity to see Joan's good side.

Andrew: I guess it doesn't matter.

matt said...

Sounds like a pretentious snob to me and she probably lives in Switzerland for tax reasons.

Dina said...

Matt,

I think I probably agree with you!

Andrew said...

Matt has nailed it. Not all Australian opera singers are like that. June Bronhill was great. Btw, sorry Dina, but I slipped a couple of requests into my last post. Ignore them if you are not interested.

Dina said...

Andrew,

I'll check out your requests!
Thanks : )

Gustav said...

There is but one Dina I know of who could have written this blog. Is this you, Dina of Currie Hall? If so, here's my comment. I don't think Joan Sutherland was racist when she made her now infamous remark on Australian Consulate clerks. She was merely "politically incorrect" and... good for her. What Joan complained about was the dispossession of British Australians. When Joan was born and when she grew up in Australia, to be an Australian meant to be British--automatically. She had no difficulty studying in Britain and when she traveled, she carried her British passport with her. Joan Sutherland devoted her entire life to cultivation of European and British high culture: opera. Her performances of Handel, Donizetti, Gilbert and Sullivan, Purcell, Gossen... they were all celebrations of it. Her choice to retire in Switzerland, in the very heart of Europe, where the land looks out from the southern slopes of the Alps towards Italy, was a natural continuation of her career and values she cherished and espoused in her professional life. This is not racism. She may or may not had had interest in, say, Kabuki Theatre of Japan or Carnatic Music of India, but her heart wasn't in it. Did it have to be? Do we all have to enthuse about monotone droning of didgeridoos, or moronic lyrics of Silverchair?

Dina said...

Gustav,

I am not the Dina you're thinking of.

We all have our different definitions of racism. My definition is likely more different than yours.

We also all have different taste in music. I personally like the didgeridoo, and I prefer it to opera music.