Opera star Dame Joan Sutherland dies aged 83

The life of celebrated soprano Dame Joan Sutherland

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Dame Joan Sutherland, one of the greatest operatic sopranos of the 20th Century, has died in Switzerland at 83.

The Australian star, who retired from the stage 20 years ago, had been in poor health following a fall.

Dame Joan made her debut at London's Covent Garden in 1952, going on to appear in productions around the world and making numerous recordings.

Her family said in a statement: "She's had a long life and gave a lot of pleasure to a lot of people."

Dame Joan Sutherland Dame Joan was married to musician Richard Bonynge for 56 years

''She's a very important person all over the world, but for us this is our family and we're just trying to come to terms with this,'' said Dame Joan's daughter-in-law Helen.

The singer performed with other greats during her career, including Luciano Pavarotti, who described her as having "the voice of the century".

Pavarotti toured with her in Australia during the 1960s when he was a young man.

Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballe once said that the singer's voice was "like heaven".

Grammy winner

Dame Joan was dubbed La Stupenda for her vocal range and stage presence after a 1960 performance at Venice's La Fenice opera house.

She sang at the Sydney Opera House when it opened in 1973, and bowed out with her final series of performances there in 1990.

Her final stage appearance in opera was alongside Luciano Pavarotti in a production of Die Fledermaus the previous year.

It was in 1947 that Dame Joan made her first major foray onto the stage in Australia, playing one of the major roles in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas.

Luciano Pavarotti and Dame Joan Sutherland Dame Joan and a young Luciano Pavarotti performed together in the 1960s

Her career in Europe took off five years later in London, while her recording career began later in the 1950s.

Dame Joan went on to record some 40 recordings of 33 different operas, anthologies and other music. She won a Grammy in 1961 for best classical performer of the year.

She became associated with the lead role in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, singing it 233 times during her career.

The soprano was appointed a Dame in the 1979 New Year's Honours list.

After her retirement, Dame Joan continued to nurture burgeoning talent and was a patron of the Cardiff Singer of the World competition, presenting the main trophy for the last time in 2009.

The opera star requested a small and private funeral service.

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