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June Mary Bronhill (1929–2005)

from Sydney Morning Herald

June Bronhill, by David Franklin, 1990

June Bronhill, by David Franklin, 1990

National Library of Australia, 12019981

Opera star June Bronhill, whose stage name paid tribute to her Broken Hill origins, has died in Sydney, aged 75.

Opera Australia confirmed she had died but had no further details.

Ms Bronhill was born June Gough, but changed her name in gratitude to the people from her western NSW hometown who raised £1500 in 1952 to send her overseas.

The soprano, whose biggest fans included former British prime minister John Major, was best known for her roles in light opera productions, such as The Merry Widow and the Sound of Music.

She performed extensively in London, as well as with Australia's top opera groups, and was awarded an OBE for her contribution to music both in the United Kingdom and Australia.

She beat breast cancer but retired in 1993 because of acute deafness.

Her early London recordings were re-released just last year, giving fans a chance to remember her sparkling talent.

"A tiny lady with enormous personality and a wonderful voice," was how former Opera Australia artistic director and ABC opera presenter Moffatt Oxenbauld remembered his former colleague.

"She had a very crystal clear, diamond bright coloratura soprano," Mr Oxenbauld said.

Perhaps the best feature of Ms Bronhill's talent, he said, was "absolutely impeccable diction".

"She could sing the English language in a way that audiences heard every word," Mr Oxenbauld said.

"It's a unique sound, a special sound that belonged to nobody else. "She was one of those people who make a rapport instantly with an audience."

Contrary to the shy off-stage persona often attributed to audience-seducing performers, Ms Bronhill's great love of people never faltered.

"She was a good party girl but ... she never ever let her audience down," Mr Oxenbauld said.

He recalled stretches in the late 1960s when Bronhill would perform every night of the week, plus two matinees, "and never changed — she was partying quite a bit during that time".

Another Australian Opera star, Marina Pryor, recalled being taken under Ms Bronhill's wing during their shared onstage experiences.

"She was just such an extraordinary mentor and wonderful supporter of young talent," she told Sky TV.

"A stage mother, I used to call her — my stage mum."

As for Ms Bronhill's performing abilities, Pryor remembered a radiant talent with a sense of fun.

"She just had that sparkling, bright, light sound that was just unique — quite an angelic, pure sound," she said.

"She also had extraordinary comic timing and a wonderful mischievous quality on stage too."

Ms Bronhill's final years were less happy, as her deafness stopped her from doing the two things she loved most: performing and talking to people.

She declined an invitation to attend an Opera Anniversary centenary celebration in the Sydney Opera House in 1996 out of concern her deafness might upset fans.

Original publication

Other Obituaries for June Mary Bronhill

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Bronhill, June Mary (1929–2005)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/bronhill-june-mary-33315/text41575, accessed 14 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

June Bronhill, by David Franklin, 1990

June Bronhill, by David Franklin, 1990

National Library of Australia, 12019981

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Gough, June Mary
  • Martin, June Mary
  • Finny, June Mary
Birth

26 June, 1929
Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia

Death

24 January, 2005 (aged 75)
Botany, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

dementia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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