The great Joan Sutherland is dead at 83

The death of Joan Sutherland -- Dame Joan -- Monday in Switzerland at the age of 83 after a long illness is being mourned by opera fans everywhere. She was one of the few vocal artists who truly deserved being hailed as "the voice of the century."

I didn't hear her live until the last chapter of her public career, but she still bowled me over with the distinctive timbre, the glittering phrasing. Her many recordings, especially of the bel canto repertoire, will always be treasurable. She set an awfully high standard. Critics carped about her diction, but only the coldest heart could fail to be won over by the purity and joy of her art.

I found this perfect little example of Sutherland in her prime -- the finale of Bellini's 'I Puritani.' I don't think she'd mind such a jaunty salute on the occasion of her death, since she was known for her humor and warmth, as much as for her musical brilliance.

Here, then, the Great Dame:

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