Dame Joan Sutherland

It is with great sadness that the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition learns of the death of its patron, dramatic coloratura soprano Dame Joan Sutherland, OM, AC, DBE, on 10 October 2010, at the age of 83.

Ekaterina Scherbachenko and Dame Joan Sutherland

Dame Joan had a long friendship with Cardiff Singer, serving on five consecutive juries from 1993. She then became the competition's first patron in 2003, and is shown here on her last appearance on the St David's Hall stage, presenting the trophy to 2009 winner Ekaterina Scherbachenko.

Her master classes were eagerly anticipated by singers and audience alike, and Dame Joan could always be relied upon to deliver forthright and down-to-earth views on singing and stagecraft to those competitors selected to benefit from her wisdom and experience.

Over the last few years, Dame Joan appeared increasingly frail but would not miss attending her favourite event. Her health had deteriorated further following a fall in her garden in Switzerland in 2008 when she broke both legs, but she still insisted on walking unaided onto the platform for the final announcement and prize-giving in 2009. She would always greet all the finalists warmly and also enjoyed the appreciation of the Cardiff audience.

Anna Williams, administrator of BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, remembers her: "Dame Joan was such a loyal supporter of this event, always keen to encourage young singers but also to get across the message that success came from a great deal of hard work and dedication.

"She very much enjoyed coming to Cardiff, mainly I believe because although she was recognised here, the people did not hassle her. She was sad when the David Morgan department store closed as store closed as she loved to shop for shoes there.

"Dame Joan supported the competition as jury member and patron over the last seventeen years. I found her a great pleasure to work with and she will be greatly missed by all involved with this competition."

Dame Joan's standing in the opera world was perhaps rivalled only in greatness by that of Maria Callas in the twentieth century. The young Joan Sutherland's rise to fame started in her native Australia, but she shot to international stardom with her performance of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1959. Read Graeme Kay's appreciation on the BBC Radio 3 blog or see and hear an audio slideshow of some of Dame Joan Sutherland's finest moments.

The competition sends its condolences to Dame Joan's husband, Richard Bonynge, who himself served on the jury in 2009, and their son and grandchildren.

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