Dame Joan Sutherland AC DBE



Mr Chancellor, 

In Ancient Greece and Rome, music ranked with arithmetic, geometry and astronomy as among the quadrivium believed to be central to education. Not surprisingly, Universities since their birth in medieval times have accorded music an important role, and have sought to honour musicians of great distinction, especially those few whose works have touched human society beyond the present moment and enriched the world's lasting cultural heritage. 

Soprano Joan Sutherland was born in Sydney. Her early contact with music was chiefly through sound recordings she heard at home and music lessons she had from her mother. When she arrived in London to study in 1951, with her winnings from the Sun Aria and the Mobil Quest, her operatic experience amounted to little more than a Sydney concert appearance as Dido in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and a NSW State Conservatorium performance in the title role in Eugene Goosens' Judith. 

After study in London with Clive Carey of the Royal College of Music, she made her Covent Garden debut as the First Lady in Mozart's The Magic Flute in 1952. In the following years at Covent Garden, increasingly studying with her future husband Richard Bonynge, she sang such title roles as those in Aida (1954), Jennifer in the premiere of Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage (1955), Gilda in Rigoletto (1957) and Handel's Alcina (1957). But it was her Lucia, in the Zeffirelli production of Lucia di Lammermoor in February 1959, that confirmed her destiny for an international career. "No soprano of our century," wrote the distinguished critic Andrew Porter of that legendary performance, "has recorded the great scenes of Lucia with so rare and precious a combination of marvellously accomplished singing and dramatic interpretation ... Some phrases burned themselves on the memory. Miss Sutherland is now in the company of the most famous Donizetti singers from Pasta to Callas." In the next three years she conquered the opera houses of Vienna, Paris, La Scala Milan and the Metropolitan in New York; and in the foyers at La Fenice, Venice, during the intervals of her Alcina in 1960, the excited crowds began describing her with the now familiar title, La Stupenda. 

Since then Sutherland has become the embodiment of Lucia, as she is of Alcina, of Norma, of Cleopatra in Handel's Julius Caesar, and of the sopranos in The Tales of Hoffmann. With her husband she has restored to the international repertoire such master works as Semiramide, Les Huguenots, and Esclarmonde. As a recording artist she has one of the most prolific discographies in the history of sound recording, and her two-volume "Art of the Prima Donna", (1960), in which she challenged sixteen of history's great sopranos in their most famous roles, stands as perhaps the world's most famous document of the possibilities of the dramatic coloratura voice. 
For Australians, ever since she came home for her triumphal tour of 1965, she has become the standard against whom all comparisons of greatness are made. As one of our foremost ambas­sadors to the world, she is a model of all that is best in the Australian character. 
Mr Chancellor, I present Joan Sutherland, Companion of the Order of Australia, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Honor­ary Doctor of the University of Aberdeen, Honorary Doctor of Arts of Rider College, Honorary. Doctor of Music of the Australian National University, for admission to the degree of Doctor of Music honoris causa, to which she has been admitted by the Senate of the University. 


Doctor of Music honoris causa