Lynne was amazed at the affection displayed to this very Australian artist by the 7,000 fans sitting and standing in the packed Hall.
Sometime after her return to Sydney, a meeting was arranged with Richard Bonynge in the Green Room of the Sydney Opera House by Russell Braddon, author of the 1962 biography “ Joan Sutherland”.
The result was the establishment in 1978 of the Joan Sutherland Society of Sydney by a group of devoted opera patrons wanting to raise funds to provide financial assistance for young, aspiring opera singers. Out of that vision was born the Joan Sutherland Society Scholarship for 17-22 year olds, valued at $200 and an Encouragement Award as part of the City of Sydney Eisteddfod. Since those first small beginnings the Society has grown considerably with a focus on providing performance opportunities and increased funding for our emerging artists.
The first Scholarships were awarded in 1979 for both a male and female singer until 1987 when the Scholarship changed to the best singer, male or female.
Winning the Joan Sutherland Society Vocal Scholarship became recognised as the “First step” to an operatic career and many Scholarship winners have become distinguished on the international scene. Those who have succeeded include Stuart Skelton, Joanna Cole, Fiona Janes, Daniel Sumegi, Catherine Carby, Dominica Matthews, Lucinda-Mirikata Deacon, Katherine Tier, David Hansen, James Homann, Emma Moore, Naomi Johns, Hadleigh Adams and many more.
It is encouraging to realise that many of our past winners have gone on to have national and international singing careers performing with some of the most important opera companies in the world whilst others have become highly sought-after teachers passing on their wealth of knowledge to our next generation of young artists.
In 1979 , Queen Elizabeth ll bestowed an Honour on the Diva and she became Dame Joan Sutherland, joining Dame Nellie Melba and Dame Joan Hammond ,the only other two Australian opera singers so honoured.
The Society has had only five presidents in a little over three decades. Lynne Redknap , the first President, resigned in 1980 and was followed by Regina Jones for four years and Arthur Haddad for a record sixteen years, Doug Cremer responsibility between 2000 – 2010 and the last President was Duncan Kinnon from 2011-2013.
In its early days, Joan Sutherland, Richard Bonynge and Margreta Elkins were appointed Life Members of the Society, with its activities mainly centred around the visits of the Bonynge’s and their performances in Sydney, where they introduced operas that had never been performed or rarely heard before here in Australia.
Dame Joan retired from the operatic stage in 1990 but continued to visit family and friends during the opera company’s Winter Season whenever Richard was conducting.
In 2007 the Scholarship was renamed the Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge Vocal Scholarship, the age limit increased to 25 years and a first prize of $5000.00 was awarded.
In 2008, to honour our late Patron and close friend of Dame Joan and Richard, the Rosina Raisbeck Award was established, valued at $2500.00 and sponsored by Alan Jones AO, in conjunction with the existing Marja Baudish Encouragement Award of $1500.00.
In 2008, Dame Joan and Richard honoured the Society by giving their blessing for “ The Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge Foundation” to be established. Sadly on October 10, 2010 the world said a final farewell to Dame Joan Sutherland before that Foundation could be established. In the weeks following her passing the Australian Government presented a State Memorial Service in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall and established the Foundation, ensuring the Sutherland/Bonynge legacy will live on for generations to come. This also means all donations to the Foundation are now tax deductible.
Each year we present a number of fund-raising concerts and events to highlight the achievements of past winners, young artists and many of our country’s professional operatic stars. The proceeds from these events help to fund the scholarship and study grants we provide to singers for voice training, coaching and language courses in Australia and overseas. Dame Joan and Richard Bonynge have regularly encouraged and supported these yearly activities, attending many of our concerts with their famous Afternoon Tea as well as the Annual Members’ Dinner.
Recent concerts of note have been, Richard Bonynge’s 80th Birthday Concert in 2010 and the Australian professional premiere performance of Handel’s Rodelinda (2012) both at the City Recital Hall Angel Place, Sydney, the Lauris Elms 80th Birthday Concert (2011) and the Rev. John Kohler Memorial Concert and Wagner to Vienna Concerts in Mosman and Bowral in 2013.
In 2011, we decided to increase our productivity by providing greater assistance and support for the artists of Australia and created the Joan Sutherland & Richard Bonynge Bel Canto Award. This award will assist six young singers with the winner also gaining a place in the prestigious Georg Solti Accademia in Tuscany Italy. Now in its third year the award has grown attracting singers from all over Australia and New Zealand as well as many major corporate sponsors.
As of June 2013, the Society and Foundation combined have financially assisted over 120 singers awarding over $250,000 in scholarships and study grants. Many have gone on to have successful national and international careers whilst some have become teachers, passing on their knowledge to the next generation.
Because of the Bonynge’s commitment to helping young singers, it is vital we ensure the continued growth of the Foundation for our next generation. Dame Joan and Richard have contributed phenomenally to the opera world, inspiring and supporting artists nationally and internationally. We believe it is now time and our duty to ensure the legacy of these two iconic Australian performers is everlasting.
By helping to support the Foundation you will be assisting in the preservation of that legacy, as well as knowing that you too, are helping the future of opera in Australia and the discovery of our next great operatic voices.
We would like to personally thank Dame Joan and Richard Bonynge for contributing extensively to this website by providing material and never before seen photographs taken from their own personal archives. They have tirelessly and willingly given of their time to the young singers of Australia and for that the Foundation and many Australians will be eternally grateful.
While Dame Joan Sutherland may no longer be with us, her spirit and legacy will always remain.