Australian soprano Dame Joan Sutherland dies: family

Legendary Australian opera singer Joan Sutherland, hailed as one of the most stupendous sopranos of the 20th century, has died at her home in Switzerland, her family said Monday. She was 83.

"The family of Dame Joan Sutherland... wishes to let all her friends and admirers know that she passed away very peacefully in the evening of October 10 at her home in Switzerland after a long illness," a statement faxed to AFP by a family assistant said.

Sutherland was understood to have lived in Montreux, by Lake Geneva, for many years since her retirement from the opera stage about 20 years ago.

The BBC reported that she had been in poor health after suffering from a fall.

"At her own request the funeral will be very small and private," the family said.

She is survived by her husband, Australian conductor Richard Bonynge, her son Adam and two grandchildren.

After Sutherland's debut in Australia in the late 1940s, her career started to take off on stages in Europe over the following decade.

By the 1960s she swayed critics who called her "La Stupenda" and was credited with reviving the art of Italian 'bel canto' opera following in the steps of Maria Callas. She was knighted in 1979.

Sutherland performed with some of greatest opera singers of her time, including Luciano Pavarotti, before bowing out in a final series of performances at the Sydney Opera House in her native Australia.

"She was a charismatic personality, an extraordinary virtuoso, a myth, a 'great dame' of opera who knew Callas," the head of Geneva's Grand Theatre opera house, Tobias Richter, told AFP.

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