Dame Joan Sutherland, Australia’s great soprano, has died aged 83.

Dame Joan Sutherland in 1989. Photo: David Franklin

Dame Joan Sutherland in 1989. Photo: David Franklin

Affectionately known as La Stupenda, and heralded by Luciano Pavarotti as the “voice of the century”, the Sydney-born singer died on Sunday 10 October after a long illness.

In 2008 she broke both of her legs in a gardening accident and has suffered with ill health ever since.

The singer was married to the conductor Richard Bonynge, and has one son, Adam. Adam’s wife Helen said in a statement last night that, “she’s a very important person all over the world, but for us this is our family and we’re just trying to come to terms with this. She’s had a long life and [gave] a lot of pleasure to a lot of people.”

Her nickname of La Stupenda was coined by an audience at Venice’s La Fenice opera house in 1960 after a performance of Handel’s Alcina. She made her UK debut with the Royal Opera in Mozart’s Die Zauberflote in 1952 and went on to cause a sensation at Covent Garden in 1959 when she sang Lucia di Lammermoor. She also ended her career at the theatre, on New Year’s Eve 1990.

Opera singer Montserrat Caballé described Dame Joan’s voice as like ”heaven” and artistic director of Opera Australia Lyndon Terracini said that Sutherland was the greatest operatic singer Australia has produced and also one of its most generous and supportive ambassadors of the art form.