It is a particular pleasure for an opera lover, even a hard-bitten critic, to watch a career develop and blossom. Nicole Car, making her role début as Violetta for Opera Australia, is one such singer. Audiences have enjoyed her in a series of important roles, among them Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, Micaëla in Carmen, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Countess Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, Luisa in Verdi’s Luisa Miller, and Thaïs in Massenet’s opera. A recent Metropolitan Opera press release described her as the ‘Mimì of our time’, a role in which she makes her debut there next season. By any measure it has been a remarkable rise to the operatic élite since graduating from college some ten years ago.
Less helpfully, or indeed accurately, she has also been described as ‘the new Joan Sutherland’. Apart from her Australian origins, there is no real comparison between them. Car is at the beginning of what one hopes will be an illustrious career, but she is a very different kind of singer. Sutherland had a sumptuous, awe-inspiring voice which she used with unparalleled facility and agility – La Stupenda an apt description. She was also an imposing physical presence on stage.