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Montreux funeral for Australian soprano Joan Sutherland

A private funeral service was held in the western Swiss lakeside town of Montreux on Thursday for legendary Australian opera singer Dame Joan Sutherland.

The small and discreet service was held in a hillside chapel overlooking Lake Geneva, an AFP photographer witnessed.

Sutherland, who died last Sunday at the age of 83 after a long illness, is survived by her husband, Australian conductor Richard Bonynge, her son Adam and two grandchildren.

Sutherland had lived on the hills near Montreux for many years after her retirement from the opera stage 20 years ago, following a career spanning nearly half a century.

She had requested “a very small and private funeral,” a spokeswoman for the family said.

Sutherland rose from obscure roots in Sydney, where she was born to a tone deaf father and music-loving mother in 1926, to become one of opera’s great post-war virtuosos, performing alongside Maria Callas and Luciano Pavarotti.

After her debut in Sydney in the late 1940s she joined the prestigious Royal Opera House in London, before being acclaimed by Italian critics as “La Stupenda” in the 1960s.