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MARVELLOUS MINTON Roger Neill salutes a great Australian mezzo on her 80th birthday

Why is it that Yvonne Minton, one of the greatest of mezzo-sopranos, is not more widely known? Is it because she was contemporary with another Australian who had superstar status, Joan Sutherland? Or is it because, although she made a stream of first-rate recordings, her leading conductors—Kertész, Solti, Boulez, Barenboim, Abbado, Bernstein—were always treated as more marketable? Harold Rosenthal never had any doubts about her, publishing glowing reviews in opera from the start and contributing her ‘People’ profile in September 1977 (pp. 834-41).

Aside from Melba and Sutherland, no other Australian singer has achieved anything like the international career of Minton. Whereas she became a star performer in a wide range of operas from Rameau and Gluck to Tippett and Hindemith, she had particular success in Mozart, Berlioz, Richard Strauss and Wagner, and is unique among Australian singers in having become the leading mezzo of her time in Mahler.

Minton was born in Dulwich Hill in Sydney on 4 December 1938—so she celebrates her 80th birthday this month. Her father Robert Minton was a factory worker, and her mother Violet a seamstress. Showing early promise, she started singing lessons at 13 with the English-born Marjorie Walker, staying with her for many years.

Brought up a Presbyterian, Minton sang regularly in the choir at St Stephen’s Church, Macquarie Street. She was to become a regular prizewinner at competitions, her usual calling card being Erda’s Warning. In 1958 she was awarded the Elsa Stralia Scholarship, enabling her to study at the Sydney Conservatorium for three years. During this period ■  Yvonne Minton as Helen in ‘King Priam’ in 1975

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Opera, December 2018

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