June Bronhill 1929-2005

An Australian soprano with a sweet, clear voice, who was best known for her operetta roles, such as The Merry Widow, though she sang much serious opera also. She was one of the stars of Sadler's Wells in London in the 1950s.

Born June Gough on 26 June 1929 in the remote New South Wales mining town of Broken Hill, she adopted the stage name Bronhill in homage after they had generously contributed £1500 to financing her studies in Britain. She won the Sun Aria contest in Sydney in 1950, went to London in 1952, and was engaged by the Sadler's Wells company in 1954. In 1959 she appeared with the Covent Garden touring company, and the following year sang at their home, the Royal Opera House. She returned to Australia in 1962.

Hanna Glawari, the merry widow giving her name to Franz Lehár's operetta, was June Bronhill's favourite role: she sang Hanna more than two hundred times. She also sang Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro, Adele in Die Fledermaus, and Saffi in The Gypsy Baron.

But though her coloratura voice and perfect diction were ideal for these "lighter" roles, she was by no means confined to "light opera": she sang the great passionate heroines of opera, including Gilda in Rigoletto, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, and the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute. In 1961 she sang the Vixen in the British premiere of Janáček's The Cunning Little Vixen.

Later Bronhill starred in some musicals: Maria in The Sound of Music in Australia in 1962, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning in London in 1964, in a musical adaptation of The Barretts of Wimpole Street called Robert and Elizabeth. This was directed by her husband Richard Finney, with whom she had one daughter; and Keith Michell was Robert to her Elizabeth. It ran for almost a thousand performances.

She was awarded an OBE in 1976. Her final years, from retirement in 1993, were marred by severe deafness. She died in Sydney on 25 January 2005, a national institution. Her funeral is to take place in the June Bronhill Auditorium in Broken Hill, a town immensely proud of her, her body being flown back by Flying Doctor aeroplane.

Obituary in The Independent
ABC news: www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200501/s1288347.htm
The Daily Telegraph (Austr.): http://dailytelegraph.news.com.au/story.jsp?sectionid=1267&storyid=2561871

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