SUTHERLAND AND BONYNGE: An Intimate Biography by Quaintance Eaton

SUTHERLAND AND BONYNGE: An Intimate Biography

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Eaton, a veteran of the music-journalism/PR scene, has been chummy with the diva Joan Sutherland and conductor Richard Bonynge since covering them in detail for Opera News in 1974. So this near-worshipful biography features lots of quotes from the subjects themselves, plenty of you-are-there details--but little that's especially revealing, surprising, or insightful. Chronicling the couple's life/career up through 1974, Eaton presents much the same story that appeared in Brian Adams' La Stupenda (1981): Joan's Australian childhood and early singing, ""combining her teachers' strictures with her mother's methods and exercises""; local prizes and the move to London, where compatriot Bonynge became ""a one-man steering committee"" for Joan's career--pushing her voice higher, pressing coloratura roles on her; worldwide triumphs--despite acting limitations, mixed reviews as Violetta (her ""severest challenge through the years""), and Joan's ""sluggish learning ability."" The dullish, performance-by-performance account, thick with excerpts from reviews. (both good and bad), is sporadically enlivened by interview-material from friends and colleagues--especially acting-coach Norman Ayrton. After 1974, however, the tone changes--to gushy, gossipy chattiness. That Opera News article--backstage during rehearsals for Hoffmann at the Met--is reprinted more or less intact. (""There she is: Sutherland at last!. . .She has shed her coat. . .She has cut her hair!"") Eaton reports in trivial, numbing detail on her visits with the Bonynges at home and on the road. And though occasionally interesting bits surface--Bonynge's tantrums, Sutherland's annoyance over Pavarotti's bad work-habits--much of the diary like narrative is grossly self-indulgent: Eaton's quarrels with other houseguests; her reaction to Bonynge's appearance in 1976: (""I gasped, and cried, too loudly, I'm afraid: 'Ricky's dyed his hair!' "") Overall, then: a mixture of competent research and fan-magazine hokum--repetitious and unselective, less neatly informative (if more up-to-date and slightly more colorful) than the bland, fact-packed Adams bio.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Dodd, Mead