Dame Joan Sutherland, accompanied by her husband Mr. Joan Sutherland, the conductor and musicologist (a much better musicologist than a conductor, by the way), has just visited Bologna where she has been awarded the «Siòla d'oro», the opera prize given to outstanding singers and named after the great soprano Lina Pagliughi, born exactly 100 years ago (she passed away in 1980).
Musicologists, singers, critics have spoken, during the ceremony, about Dame Joan's genius: but the real big moment came when she was suprised by a video sent by a faraway friend, Luciano Pavarotti.
Our dear sweet "Big Luciano", still ailing from his fight against a terrible illness, could not obviously participate but sent a video. Where, still pale and haggard after the treatments, bravely downplayed his health problems with a smiling "these days I'm not very well, non sto tanto bene", joked about his partnership with the Dame "we were a golden couple, golden in every sense", and explained how Sutherland and her hubby Richard Bonynge, "Joan and Ricky", "will be forever in my heart: and I still think about all the fun we had together, since our very first tour together, in Australia. Brava Joan, bravissima: all the world knows how much your talent deserves this award. And if I may add something, you set a standard of professional behavior and dedication to your work".
Cue the Thunderous applause.
Sutherland, always cool, explained that "nowadays I don't do much, I am an old lady", but hasn't lost her gift for the cutting remark.
Her favorite performances? "Norma and Esclarmonde".
Does she listen to her records? "Not when I was still singing. Now, I do, occasionally. And I ask myself: how did I manage to hit that acuto?"
Why, if she admires Rossini so, did she only sing in Semiramide? "Unfortunately a singer's willingness to do an opera has to be accompanied by a opera house's proposal to sing in that opera".
Why doesn't she give masterclasses? "I'm 80, I don't wanto to have anything to do with opera anymore. I only work occasionally as a judge in singing contests".
What about young singers then? "Young singers do not have the appropriate technique".
She doesn't go to the opera much: "In my days, every cast had at least three or four excellent voices. Nowadays, you're lucky to hear one. And anyway in today's opera houses they have too many microphones and too many absurd directors".