Dame Joan Sutherland’s Best Opera Roles



Lucia di Lammermoor

When Joan sutherland sings the title role of Donizettifrom the tragic melodrama of the opera at the Royal Opera House on February 17, 1959, she brought down the house. She also gave Covent Garden audiences their first opera experience since a single performance in 1925. It was the role that made Sutherland an international star, and she returned there frequently, including on her debut at the Paris Opera, La Scala and le Rencontré, singing 221 times in all.


RossiniThe most lavishly decorated Italian opera ‘had long gone out of fashion when Sutherland took on the challenge of her title role at La Scala in 1962. Two years later, in New York, she sang it in concert opposite Marilyn Horne, repeating it in staging in Boston and Chicago. Already nicknamed by the mezzo the ‘druid duo’ for their appearances together in Norma, Sutherland’s impeccable teamwork with Horne in Semiramide has gone down in the opera legend.

Marguerite de Valois in The Huguenots

In its heyday, Meyerbeer’s grand opera was known as “the night of the seven stars” for the number of major singers required to do it justice. Sutherland (pictured, right, in the role) attended such a party at La Scala in 1962, making his debut in the role alongside Franco Corelli and Simionato. Subsequently the opulent coloratura Queen of Meyerbeer stayed with her until the end of her career, when she made it the vehicle for her last full opera production, in Sydney in 1990.

Marie in Daughter of the Regiment

Since most of his characters were tragic characters who either died violently, or went insane, or both, Sutherland seized the opportunity to have fun in Donizetti’s light comedy. Daughter of the Regiment, starring Luciano Pavarotti in a 1966 Covent Garden production that moved to New York City six years later, with Sutherland playing the down-to-earth tomboy heroine with immeasurable pleasure.


MassenetThe opera was premiered in 1889 to convey glamorous American soprano Sybil Sanderson, whose stratospheric upper register put the role beyond the reach of nearly all subsequent sopranos. Not Sutherland, however, for whom this great rarity was revived in San Francisco in 1974, in a production that then traveled to the Met and Covent Garden, and which became his favorite opera.

We named Joan Sutherland one of the greatest sopranos of all time

To buy Joan Sutherland’s recordings below

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