June Bronhill OBE 1929-2005

June Bronhill

June Bronhill

June Mary Gough was born in Broken Hill on 26 June 1929, and grew up singing.

At six, in white tie and tails, she beguiled the Crystal Theatre audience with ‘Little Man, You’ve had a Busy Day’.

At six, in white tie and tails, she beguiled the Crystal Theatre audience with ‘Little Man, You’ve had a Busy Day’

Her London studies with tenor Dino Borgioli – who also trained Joan Hammond – led to an engagement with Sadler’s Wells Opera.

 

June’s tune

‘June had a diamond-bright voice, excellent diction and that indefinable quality of charm that
always endeared her to an audience,’ recalled Opera Australia director Moffatt Oxenbould. ‘She was the life of many a party, and loved to get together with friends and colleagues after a show; she adored pranks onstage, but never interfered with the public’s enjoyment of the performance. She was vulnerable, impetuous, occasionally frivolous, but always herself.’

Though she was a star in that remarkable constellation of world acclaimed Australian sopranos – among them Melba, Florence Austral, Marjorie Lawrence, Joan Hammond, Joan Sutherland – June Bronhill’s natural vivacity steered her career into waters unknown to her operatic peers. Twenty years after her Covent Garden triumph in Lucia di Lammermoor she was delivering outrageous double ententes in the Australian version of Are You Being Served?

June Mary Gough was born in Broken Hill on 26 June 1929, and grew up singing. At six, in white tie and tails, she beguiled the Crystal Theatre audience with ‘Little Man, You’ve had a Busy Day’. A few yeas later she was the male lead in her school’s all-girl production of the musical A Country Girl. After that it was concerts with the local Philharmonic Society.

At age 19 she tried her luck in Sydney. By day she worked in the NRMA office and in the evenings she studied with the renowned Maryanne Mathy, who became her ‘second mother’. When Mathy organised a fund-raising production of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel at the Sydney Conservatorium, she gave her favourite pupil the role of Gretel; Mathy had sung it in Germany under the composer’s direction.

Mathy encouraged the young soprano to enter the prestigious Sun Aria competition. In the 1949 finals, she came third (Joan Sutherland was first); she won it the following year.At six, in white tie and tails, she beguiled the Crystal Theatre audience with ‘Little Man, You’ve had a Busy Day’. , the NSW National Opera Company’s inaugural productions; she also won the Mobil Quest. She ventured to London in 1952 – a trip largely financed by her loyal Broken Hill supporters. In gratitude she elided her surname to Bronhill.

Her London studies with tenor Dino Borgioli – who also trained Joan Hammond – led to an engagement with Sadler’s Wells Opera, where she sang Adele in Die Fledermaus, Gilda in Rigoletto and Norina in Don Pasquale. In 1958, in a desperate bid to restore its flagging fortunes, the Wells broadened its repertoire to include operetta, and Bronhill was given the title role in Lehár’s The Merry Widow. The resulting artistic and financial triumph is now theatre history, and the ‘Vilia’ aria was soon known affectionately as ‘June’s tune’. The production toured throughout Australia under the Garnet H. Carroll–Tivoli Circuit banner, captivating audiences and establishing records wherever it went.

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Biographical references

June Bronhill: The Merry Bronhill, Methuen Haynes, 1987
Moffatt Oxenbould: Timing is Everything, ABC Books, 2005
Frank Van Straten: ‘Rich legacy bequeathed by a glorious voice’, in The Age, 28 January 2005
John West: ‘June Bronhill’, in Companion to Theatre in AustraliaCurrency Press, 1995