Opera Singer, Born 1912, Sydney, NSW, Died 1996
One of the great opera stars of the two decades following World War Two, Joan Hammond established a wide international following as a soprano on stage and as a recording artist.
Dame Joan was a woman of many talents. While at school, she won the NSW Junior Golf title and would eventually win the NSW Golf Championship three times and be runner-up in the nationals. In her early years, she trained in voice and violin at the Sydney Conservatorium and played violin with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Although her real love was for singing, success in this field did not begin until her talent was recognised by the wife of the then NSW Governor, who raised funds to send her to Vienna in 1936. There she trained under the best tutors of the day.
While striving to maintain her career during the early years of World War Two, she drove an ambulance in London during the Blitz.
In 1941, she recorded the Puccini aria, Oh My Beloved Father, which became the first classical aria to sell more than a million records. She entertained troops and civilians during the war, even singing in underground air raid shelters and on battleships in northern Scotland.
Returning to Australia in 1946, she resumed her career by singing all the major soprano roles in Europe, the United States and Australia. From 1975 she taught at the Victorian College of the Arts. She was the first artistic director of the Victoria State Opera and in 1974 she was created Dame of the British Empire.