Sutherland was born in 1926 in Sydney, the daughter of Scottish immigrants. Your first voice teacher was her mother, a mezzo-soprano. At age 19, she began her studies at the Conservatory in Sydney with John and Aida Dickens. Her concert debut took place in 1947 in Sydney, as Dido in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas.
In 1951 she went to London to continue her education at the Royal College of Music with Clive Carey. A year later she made her debut as first lady in Mozart's Magic Flute at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, where her talent was discovered as a coloratura soprano. There she sang 1952, the High Priestess in Verdi's Aida and the small role of Clotilde in Bellini's Norma at the acclaimed Maria Callas page in the title role. In the same year, she sang her first leading role: Amelia in Un ballo in maschera by Giuseppe Verdi. Until her triumph as Lucia di Lammermoor in 1959 she was member of the ensemble at the Royal Opera House.
In the following years she sang at the major opera houses: 1959 at the Vienna State Opera, 1960 at La Scala in 1961 at New York's Metropolitan Opera, where she sang the title role of Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor under the direction of also debuting Silvio Varviso. From her fans she was nicknamed La Stupenda ( The Great ). After a few years of absence from the Metropolitan Opera celebrated there in 1982 celebrated his comeback in her starring role of Lucia di Lammermoor.
Since 1954, she was married to the Australian conductor Richard Bonynge, under whose musical direction she performed frequently and with whom she grossed many bel canto operas. With him she had their son Adam. Joan Sutherland had the combination of vocal security and sound instinct and is considered one of the greatest singers of the 20th century.