The death of opera legend Dame Joan Sutherland has left the music world grieving for a plain-speaking Australian with a colossal voice and no talent at all for pretence.
Dame Joan, who has died at 83 at her home near Geneva, Switzerland after a long illness, came to international renown after travelling to London as the winner of a singing competition in her native Sydney.
Hers was "the voice of the century", the late Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti said.
The Spanish diva Montserrat Caballe described it as like "heaven".
On many lists of the world's greatest sopranos, Dame Joan has ranked second only to Maria Callas.
During a career spanning four decades, she was known in the opera world as an "anti-diva" diva, whose warm, vibrant sound and subtle colouring helped revive the early 19th-century Italian opera style known as bel canto.
Opera Australia artistic director Lyndon Terracini said Dame Joan "was tremendously down to earth and tremendously joyous".
"When she came into the rehearsal room the whole place would light up, and I think in performances that joy communicated from the stage to an audience in quite an extraordinary way.
"I think she transcended not only the operatic form but was a great communicator to the wider public," Mr Terracini said.
"I think it would be fair to say she was Bradmanesque."
New Zealand diva Dame Kiri Te Kanawa said Dame Joan could never be equalled.
"She's totally unique, and you will never ever hear another voice like that," Dame Kiri said.
"It was elite, it was supreme, no one could ever reach that. We've all tried, but I think with a lot of us it failed."
Dame Joan's first training was sitting at the feet of her mother Muriel, a mezzo-soprano, as she practised scales and arpeggios. She didn't start serious voice training until she was 18.
Young Joan went to London to study at the Royal College of Music in 1951. She later joined the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as a utility soprano earning 10 pounds a week, and made her debut as the First Lady in Mozart's The Magic Flute in 1952.
In 1954 she married Richard Bonynge, a fellow Australian, who coached her as a coloratura singer and set her on a path to the major roles of bel canto.
The repertoire - "beautiful song" in Italian - had languished for decades outside Italy until the legendary Callas took on the roles in the early 1950s.
Italian director Franco Zeffirelli, who directed Dame Joan in the 1959 Covent Garden performance of Lucia di Lammermoor that launched her international career, was floored by her voice the moment he heard it.
"We went to the theatre and I saw her, as big as a sergeant in the army with a terrible Australian accent," Zeffirelli said in an interview.
Then "she started to sing, and she conquered me. I said, my God, it is going to be big trouble for Callas".
But the two sopranos were above "petty jealousies", he said.
"They were two enormous artists. ... They respected one another. When you reach that level you are beyond how normal people react."
Dame Joan was soon considered the pre-eminent singer of bel canto opera. If she couldn't project the raw passion of Callas, her voice was far steadier and she could maintain a perfect vocal line in difficult roles.
"She had more vocal flexibility than Callas," said Lotfi Mansouri, former general director of the San Francisco Opera, who directed her in more operas than any other director.
When Zeffirelli's production of Lucia went to La Scala in Italy, Dame Joan became known as 'La Stupenda'.
Her marriage to Sir Richard, a pianist and conductor, was to be a life-long and mutually supportive partnership.
The couple did much for opera in Australia, Mr Terracini said.
On their return to Australia, their opera company gave opportunities to many singers and Dame Joan boosted the art as Opera Australia music director.
Her biographer, Dame Norma Major, said: "For me and countless others she was the greatest coloratura soprano of the 20th century.
"Her glorious voice brought to us operas that were rarely heard, but which are now in the standard repertoire of international opera houses."
For all her fame, off stage Dame Joan was famously unpretentious and plainspoken.
"She was an extraordinary woman and such a fantastic artist, but very down-to-earth and professional," said Jonathan Pell, artistic director of the Dallas Opera.
She was one of the great singers of the last, or any other, century, but she was also a wonderful colleague, and everyone loved her."
After her final appearance in the United States in 1987 - in the title role of Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow - Dame Joan thanked the audience at the Fair Park Music Hall in Dallas.
"I just feel the time has come. I'd rather leave you with a pleasant sound in your ears than start croaking too much," she said.
Her last performances were at the Sydney Opera House and London's Covent Garden in 1990.
She was Australian of the Year in 1961.
Dame Joan is survived by her husband, their son Adam, daughter-in-law Helen, and two grandchildren.
La Stupenda, who died peacefully on October 10 after a long illness, had requested a very small and private funeral.