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June Bronhill

June Bronhill, one of the most glamorous singing stars to grace to London stage during the last century, died in Sydney, Australia, on January 24, aged 75. In Australia she was considered a superstar and appeared with all the major opera companies and in several straight plays.

Bronhill was born June Gough on June 26, 1929 in the New South Wales town of Broken Hill. She changed her name to Bronhill in 1952 to thank Broken Hill locals who raised money to help her pursue a career in Britain.

She played leading operatic roles with the Sadler’s Wells Company, appeared in hit West End musicals such as Robert and Elizabeth, and topped the bill on variety dates throughout the country.

Two years after arriving in London, she sang the role of Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro for Sadler’s Wells Opera, before making her debut at Covent Garden in 1959.

In 1964 Bronhill returned as guest artist at Sadler’s Wells to appear in The Gypsy Baron before appearing later that year in the musical Robert and Elizabeth at the Lyric. She remained in the show until 1966 when she toured Australia with Denis Quilley in the same show. In 1968 she was back in the West End at the Saville Theatre in a revival of Ivor Novello’s The Dancing Years but had to withdraw from the post-West End tour when a tumour almost cost her the sight in one eye.

Later she toured the UK in productions of Bitter Sweet and Perchance to Dream, appeared in summer seasons and on variety bills and starred with Tommy Steele at the London Palladium.

In 1973 she appeared as Violetta in La Traviata and the following year was back at Sadler’s Wells in a revival of The Merry Widow. It was at the Congress Theatre, Eastbourne, that the last performance of the Sadler’s Wells Opera was given and Bronhill made a curtain speech wishing the company success under its new name English National Opera. Later that year she appeared in Puccini’s La Rondine at Sadler’s Wells.

She returned to Australia in 1976 and sang with the Australian Opera and in several musicals including A Little Night Music, My Fair Lady and How to Succed in Business Without Really Trying. She also gave critically acclaimed performances in Arsenic and Old Lace and in the stage production of Prisoner: Cell Block H. She returned for one final time to London in 1981 when she starred as the Mother Abess in the revival of The Sound of Music, with Petula Clark.

She was awarded the OBE for her contribution to music in 1976 and in 1987 wrote an autobiography, The Merry Bronhill.

Bronhill married twice, both marriages ending in divorce. She is survived by her daughter from her second marriage, Carolyn Jane.

Patrick Newley