Karyn de Vere with a photo of her and Dame Joan Sutherland taken at the end of a five-week master class 1991. In the picture Dame Sutherland is signing a copy of Mrs de Vere’s 24 Italian Songs and Arias as a memento of their time together.
Karyn de Vere with a photo of her and Dame Joan Sutherland taken at the end of a five-week master class 1991. In the picture Dame Sutherland is signing a copy of Mrs de Vere’s 24 Italian Songs and Arias as a memento of their time together. Renee Pilcher

Karyn mourns for Dame Joan

LOCAL singer Karyn de Vere admitted she still gets goose bumps when she remembers learning from Dame Joan Sutherland.

The opera singer is credited as Australia’s, if not the world’s, greatest and also as the woman who taught Mrs de Vere how to sing properly.

“She basically showed me how to sing properly and the techniques of singing,” she said.

Now that Dame Sutherland has passed away Mrs de Vere said she won’t ever forget the “down to earth” woman whose breathing techniques she now passes on to her own students.

Back in 1991 Mrs de Vere met the famous singer while studying at the University of Queensland.

“I was given the opportunity to work with Joan Sutherland in a master class for five weeks.”

Those intensive one-on-one classes were a dream come true and a life changing experience for Mrs de Vere, who first saw Dame Sutherland perform Norma at Her Majesty’s Theatre when only 16.

“From then all I wanted to do was sing opera and be Joan Sutherland.”

“It felt like she had a trail of glitter as she walked.”

But Karyn admitted she didn’t think so highly of Dame Sutherland just because she was in awe of the singer.

“If you’d seen her in Centro you’d still think she was someone very important.

“She always had a spark in her eyes and time for everybody.

“She was the mother of singing. She wanted to nurture and create.”

Mrs de Vere remembers Dame Joan as an amazing woman, who was very tall and strong.

“She was one of those people you just stopped and looked at when she entered a room,” Mrs de Vere said.

“And she was a very humble person.”

Mrs de Vere said she pinched herself so she knew it was real that she was actually singing with her idol.

“The news (of her death) was really sad. People like that become a mentor and you have such respect for them you think they’re going to last forever. It doesn’t occur they are going to pass. She was a very special person to know.”

During her five-week master class Mrs de Vere had the opportunity to feel the opera singer’s stomach muscles when being taught a diaphragm technique.

“It’s something that sticks with you forever. She helped me greatly with my career in opera; she does live forever in that. She was very dynamic and commanding and when she spoke there was such resonance in her voice.

“She was the best in the world; there will never be anyone else with her longevity of career and the respect of her peers and how she held it all together.”

Something Mrs de Vere will always carry with her is the principal of never backing out of a performance, no matter how you were feeling on the day.

“I always remember her telling me about the day her mother died, she performed opera that night and she was criticised for not cancelling the performance.

“She would say that her mother worked so hard to get her where she was and would have wanted her to sing.

“If you say you are going to do it, just do it,” she said.

Above all Dame Joan will be remembered for her purity of tone and brilliant vocal display over her four decade long career.

She died on Sunday aged 83 at her home in Switzerland after battling a long illness. Dame Joan is survived by her husband Richard Bonynge, son Adam and daughter-in-law Helen and two grandchildren, Natasha and Vanya.

The opera singer was dubbed “La Stupenda” by opera lovers and twice won a Grammy for best classical performer, in 1961 and 1981. Her last stage performance was in 1989 and in retirement she mentored young singers like Mrs de Vere.

Gympie Times


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