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Hammond, Joan (1912—)

Hammond, Joan (1912—)

New Zealand-born soprano. Name variations: Dame Joan Hammond. Born on May 24, 1912, in Christchurch, New Zealand; studied at the Sydney Conservatory.

Debuted in Sydney (1929) before going to London to study with Dino Borgioli; made her operatic debut in Vienna (1939); was a member of the Carl Rosa Opera Company (1942–45); made Covent Garden debut (1949); received the Sir Charles Santley award (for musician of the year) from the Worshipful Company of Musicians in London (1970); retired from singing (1971); became artistic director of the Victoria Opera and head of vocal studies at the Victorian College of the Arts; made a Dame of the British Empire (DBE, 1974).

Joan Hammond did much to popularize opera, and her career paved the way for such international opera stars as Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo. As a child, Hammond's first love was the violin, which she studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and played with the Symphony Orchestra. She also took on golf, winning the New South Wales (NSW) junior championship in 1929 and 1930. She then went on to win the NSW Champion of Champions twice, represented Australia in contests in Britain and New Zealand, was runner-up in the Australian amateur in 1933, and won the NSW ladies' championship in 1932, 1934, and 1935. When an accident left her with a two-inch differential in arm lengths, forcing her to give up the violin, women golfers raised funds to send Hammond to Italy to study singing.

Hammond's record of "O, my beloved father" from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi sold over a million copies by 1969 as audiences loved her warm, expansive style. She came from a long line of important Australasian opera singers which includes Nellie Melba, Frances Alda , and Joan Sutherland . After training and performing in Sydney, she went to Europe and began her international career at the Vienna Staatsoper in 1938. Her warm and vibrant voice was a hit with audiences everywhere. In 1947, Hammond returned to Sydney and gave concerts to raise funds to send a women's golf team to England for the 1950 tournament year. Her voice was not powerful enough for Wagner, and, though too mature for Mozart, she performed creditably in Madame Butterfly, Tosca, and La Bohème. Hammond understood her abilities, and huge audiences enjoyed her voice in recordings as well as on stage.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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