Australian opera star June Bronhill died in her sleep on Jan. 24. Cause of death was not released. She was 75.
Born June Gough in Broken Hill, New South Wales, she took piano and vocal lessons throughout her childhood. After winning a singing competition in 1950, June changed her last name to Bronhill to honor the people of her hometown, who raised £1,500 to send her overseas.
Bronhill made her debut in 1954 at Sadler’s Wells Opera Company in London as Adele in “Die Fledermaus.” Four years later, she received a 20 minute standing ovation on opening night for her performance in Franz Lehar’s “The Merry Widow.” Despite her small stature — she was barely five feet tall — Bronhill’s vibrant personality and clear voice could fill an entire opera house.
For four decades, the coloratura soprano performed in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Bronhill regularly appeared on the British Broadcasting Corp. show “Friday Night Is Music Night,” but was best known for her roles in the operas “Lucia di Lammermoor,” “The Magic Flute,” “The Cunning Little Vixen,” “Rigoletto,” “Don Pasquale” and “The Sound of Music.” She sang on 30 operetta albums, most of which are currently out of circulation. However, several of Bronhill’s early London recordings were re-released in 2004.
Bronhill suffered from breast cancer in the 1980s, then steadily lost her hearing. Robbed of her music and the ability to perform, the gregarious singer was forced to retire in 1993. Bronhill married twice and had one daughter.