19 September-11 February 2012

The first exhibition of the 2011/12 Season pays tribute to legendary soprano Dame Joan Sutherland, who began her professional career at the Royal Opera House in 1952. This exhibition offers a comprehensive overview of her incredible career, from her early days with the Covent Garden Opera Company and her landmark performance in Lucia di Lammermoor in 1959, through to her farewell appearance on the Royal Opera House stage in 1990.

Dame Joan Sutherland who was born in Sydney and came to London in 1951 made her debut as First Lady in Mozart’s The Magic Flute in 1952. She spent the next seven years learning her craft with the Company, taking on increasingly more important roles: Amelia in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera in December 1952, and then over the next few years, roles including Micaëla in Bizet’s Carmen, the title role in Verdi’s Aida, Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello and several roles in Wagner’s Ring. She created the role of Jenifer in the World Premiere of Tippett’s The Midsummer Marriage in 1955 and appeared as Madame Lidoine in the first performance in England of Poulenc’s The Carmelites in 1958.

Sir John Tooley, General Director, Royal Opera House, 1970-88 commented;

“The most glorious, the most beautiful voice to be heard anywhere round the world during the second half of the last century belonged to an unassuming and down-to-earth Australian: Joan Sutherland”

This varied exhibition features costumes, headdresses and jewellery from productions such as Lucrezia Borgia designed by Michael Stennett, La traviata designed by Franco Zeffirelli, Norma designed by Alan Barlow, Anna Bolena designed by John Pascoe and The Midsummer Marriage, designed by Barbara Hepworth. The exhibition also provides a rare glimpse into the world behind the Main Stage during Sutherland’s illustrious career and features rehearsal shots as well as images from her last public visit to the Royal Opera House. There are also programmes and posters on display that recall some of her most celebrated roles at the Royal Opera House.


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