Since Eloquence published the 4CD set From Melba to Sutherland: Australian Singers on Recordwith its grand total of 80 Aussie singers, I’ve often thought about which of them are among my absolute favourites. And right up there among the greatest is mezzo-soprano Yvonne Minton, who celebrated her 80th birthday on December 4. Although she had a top-flight international career and made a stream of first-rate recordings, her leading conductors – Kertesz, Solti, Boulez, Barenboim, Abbado – were always treated as more marketable. She is very much still with us, and she should be better known, better celebrated.

Yvonne Minton Yvonne Minton recording La Clemenza di Tito, July 1976. Photo © Mike Evans, Decca

Minton was born at Dulwich Hill in Sydney on December 4, 1938. Her father Robert Minton was a factory worker, and her mother Violet a seamstress. Without ever having seen one, she told school friends that she would become an opera singer. Showing early promise, she started singing lessons at 13 with the English-born Marjorie Walker. Yvonne stayed with Walker for many years: “I’m not really sure what I learned from her,” Yvonne said, “but I must have learned something.”