As a leading soprano with Sadler’s Wells Opera and its successor, English National Opera, Ava June was a highly adaptable performer as proficient in the works of Mozart and Tchaikovsky as she was with Britten and Bartok.
Two of her most notable performances displayed her virtuosity – the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro, under Charles Mackerras, and Puccini’s Madam Butterfly. About this latter role, The Stage commented: “Her strongly produced voice, capable of a distinctively feminine, almost girlish quality, [makes] her portrayal of Butterfly an emotional experience for the listener.”
When June joined Sadler’s Wells Opera at its base in Rosebery Avenue in Islington, north London, in 1953, she was a mezzo, but changed to soprano, becoming a principal four years later. She stayed with the company until 1963, but returned seven years later as a member of the ensemble at the London Coliseum.
June also sang with Welsh National Opera and the Scottish Opera. At Covent Garden, she made her debut as the Heavenly Voice in Visconti’s production of Verdi’s Don Carlos in 1958. She made her first US appearance in 1974, as Ellen Orford in a production of Britten’s Peter Grimes in San Francisco.
In her retirement, June coached younger singers with ENO, and gave master classes for such organisations as the National Opera Studio. In 1985, she was installed as a professor at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, where she stayed for 14 years.
Ava June, who was born Ava June Cooper on July 23, 1931, died on February 22, aged 81.