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A Tribute to Joan Sutherland – an exhibition

Exhibition at the Royal Opera House until 2012 focusing on the career of the legendary soprano.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

10 October 2011 at 11.47am | 8 Comments

Royal Opera House Collections has created an exhibition in tribute to legendary soprano Joan Sutherland, whose career is so closely associated with the Royal Opera House.

Joan began her professional career in 1952 as a member of the Covent Garden Opera Company on a salary of £10 a week. The next seven years learning her craft culminated in 1959, when Franco Zeffirelli cast her in the title role in his production of Donizetti’s Lucia de Lammermoor. This role launched her international career and she was immediately in demand all over the world, but she retained a loyalty and affection for Covent Garden throughout her life.

The exhibition includes images of all her roles at the Royal Opera House from 1959 until her farewell performance in 1990, and of almost all her early roles from 1952 to 1959. Other rarely-seen photographs include glimpses of Sutherland in rehearsal and behind the scenes. There will be four costumes on display in the Costume Gallery in the Carriage Entranceway as well as a further two costumes and four headdresses in other exhibition areas. None of these have been exhibited before and the exhibition includes spectacular costumes for Lucrezia Borgia, designed by Michael Stennett and Anna Bolena, designed by John Pascoe.

The exhibition is open to the public as a tour from now until February 2012.

Tour Times

This unique tour takes place most days at 11am.Please check ticket availability with the Box Office. Latecomers will not be admitted. The duration of the tour is about 45 minutes.


Book in person at the Box Office or by telephone on +44 (0)20 7304 4000.


£7 per adult

£6.50 senior concession

£5 for students/UB40 holders/children

Did you experience a performance by Joan Sutherland? If so, tell us your memory by commenting on this article

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

10 October 2011 at 11.47am

This article has been categorised Exhibition, Opera and tagged Bel Canto, Donizetti, exhibition, Joan Sutherland, ROH Collections, Zeffirelli

This article has 8 comments

  1. Ruth McKibbin responded on 10 October 2011 at 1:52pm Reply

    My first and life changing operatic experience was seeing "Our Joan" as Leonora in Il Trovatore at the Sydney Opera House in 1981.
    We waited for her at the stage door after the performance and she graciously autographed our programmes.
    She was La Stupenda INDEED!

  2. Norman E. Brown responded on 10 October 2011 at 1:57pm Reply

    I had the fortune to hear Joan Sutherland in person on two occasions. One was in Norma in Toronto with canadian Opera Company with whom I sang chorus. I recall sitting in teh lobby of the Edward Johnson building before rehearsal one afternoon and this striking figure entered the area... right away I knew exactly who she was - Joan Sutherland. I had never seen her in person before. She looked taller on stage and in videos! The second was at a recital also in Toronto at "Old" Massey Hall. What a treat that was..... Especially being close enough to hear Richard B's chatter from the keyboard throughout!

  3. Chris O'brien responded on 10 October 2011 at 3:15pm Reply

    I saw Joan Sutherland as Leonora in Trovatore at Covent Garden. I remember watching in horror as she had to negotiate an extremely rickety staircase. Successfully I might add! But that voice when she threw her headback. It filled the auditorium. Unforgettable and unrepeatable.

  4. Gregory Gyllenship responded on 11 October 2011 at 9:07am Reply

    Joan's voice heard live had an intensity and complexity which was simply breathtaking, she always commanded the stage and even in her later years carefully coached her voice so that she plenty left for the taxing final scenes. As a youngster it was listening to a record of her which attracted me to the sound of the operatic voice in the first place and I determined that I would experience this live as soon as possible. My first experience was as a schoolboy; I took a day "off" school to queue for a standing place for Lucia (about 1972 ? ) I arrived good and early in time to get a place in the line and to my horror my Headmaster and his wife were at the very front of the queue, he smiled and simply said "Good morning Boy" clearly realising that my truancy was for the best possible reason. Later in her career the affection felt by the audiences for a much loved artist was all part of something that became very much an occasion; I usually missed the last train home waiting at the stage door for an autograph and she always sat patiently signing photos and record sleeves for the gang of fans waiting outside.

  5. Peter Anastos responded on 13 October 2011 at 3:12am Reply

    I first saw Joan in 1964 at the Old Met. Her Lucia transformed my life and I remained faithful until her US farewell, as it occurred in Dallas, Texas, in The Merry Widow in 1989. She was the greatest soprano of my lifetime and I treasure her memory and her greatness. Audiences loved her, she was a popular singer, she aimed to please, astonish and inspire. We will all miss her forever, but she has left one of the greatest legacies of any singer. Her recordings tell the whole story!

  6. Emma Aitken responded on 28 October 2011 at 1:21am Reply

    Never saw Dame Joan perform....sadly I wasn't born! But what a legend and inspiration she is and I cannot wait to come down to London to see this exhibition.

  7. Chris Ryan responded on 6 November 2011 at 1:00am Reply

    I first heard the voice on a 45 - Lucia's Mad Scene. I was 11. At 17, having waited 6 years, I spent 2/3 of my then salary to attend the first night of the Sutherland Williamson Season (July 10 1965) - a vast sum to me then, but what an investment! It has paid lovely dividends all my adult life. That wonderful instrument has always to me encapsulated a glorious tone wrapped in a humanity that is unique. Her legacy and that of her life partner Richard Bonynge has enriched the world of music immeasurably. To hear her sing live is an indelible memory. My eyes well at the thought. I am so glad to have that richness in my life and grateful to have had the opportunity to have told her so. She smiled, nodded and removed her glove to shake my hand.

  8. Peter Erdos responded on 10 November 2011 at 12:39pm Reply

    One of the greatest treasure in my life is the memory of the performances of Joan. I saw her the first time in Traviata in 1962 followed by her appearances in every opera after that to the farewell performance of Anna Bolena
    at Covent Garden. She gave me great pleasure in enjoying my operatic experiences. Her personality was equally wonderful, I had many a friendly chat with her , all smiles , never to forget. In the true sense of the word she was the greatest singer who will live in my memory for ever.

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