Joan Carlyle was the leading lyrical spinto soprano of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in the 1950s and 60s. Carlyle sang many major roles at the Royal Opera House with great distinction. They included her outstanding Nedda which brought her international acclaim in Zefirelli's controversial production, and led to her being asked for by Herbert Von Karajan, following her Vienna debut (where she has also sung Mimi, Oscar and Pamina) for his La Scala recording of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci with Carlo Bergonzio. The only previous singer to have recorded this part at La Scala was Maria Callas. Carlyle's beautiful soprano voice was first noted by Kubelik who helped to bring her to the fore. Also Rudolf Kempe was a very powerful influence and nurtured her career with great affection and understanding. It was with Kempe that she had her first success as Sophie and then Micaela, later in her career she sang the Four Last Songs of Strauss with him at the Tonnehall in Zurich.
She worked with Ernest Ansermet and made her American debut at Boston in the Brahms' German Requiem with Erich Leinsdorf. She also sang with overwhelming success in Otto Klemperer's production of The Magic Flute (1962) and in the new Georg Solti / Peter Hall production of this opera (1966).
The Munich Festival saw her Zdenka in Strauss's Arabella opposite Lisa Della Casa. Della Casa encouraged the young soprano to graduate to the role of Arabella as she her self had done in 1947. In 1967 Covent Garden was to see Carlyle's Arabella which has now made musical history in England as she became the first British singer to essay this exacting role, which she sang opposite Fischer-Dieskau, conductor Solti, producer Hartmann. This created a sensation in the German wing of the repertoire at Covent Garden. She also appeared in Visconti's production of Der Rosenkavalier.
She recorded a Purcell Anthology with Menuhin
Carlyle was no less at home on the Concert Platform than in the Opera House, she had a concert repertoire which included Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Mozart's Requiem, Verdi's Requiem, Brahms' German Requiem and the Szymanowski Stabat Mater, Poulenc's Gloria, Carmina Burana and Mahler's Forth Symphony.
In Italian opera her successes include, besides the renowned Nedda, Desdemona in Verdi's Otello with James McCracken and subsequently with Jon Vickers and Charles Craig and it was noted that she “..is one of the finest interpreters inthe world of this beautiful role”.This resulted in her being asked to sing in Barcelona, Chicago and Dallas, as well as the Teatra Colon Buenos Aires where she made her debut in the summer of 1968.
At the Teatra Colon many fans crossed out Carmen on the programme cover and wrote Micaela instead, such was the the regard that they held Carlyle's performance in the part.
Her Mimi in La Boheme became justly famous, warranting a BBC television production of the opera. As Mimi she at first played opposite de Stefano and later with Pavarotti in his debut performance, both in Vienna and London.
She sang her first Countess with Solti and Gobbi as her Count
She sang Titania in Midsummer Night's Dream with Solti.
She sang her first Butterfly for the BBC with Carlo Cossuttao
She sang Lauretta in Gianni Schichi, produced by Ustinov and conducted by Solti
She sang Elizabetta in Don Carlos with Christoff and Bumbry
She sang Donna Anna in Giovanni.
She sang Liu in Turandot.
She made her debut at La Scala under Von Karajan with with Mimi and then Nedda in Pagliacci.
She sang Adrianna Leucouvreur by Erede with Cilea his closest friend conducting.
She sang Russalka, and Reiza in Weber's Oberon.
She sang Suor Angelicai in a new production at the Garden.
Her engagements included, the Berlin Festival, Munich and Buenos Aires, Naples, Brussels, Monaco, Milan, Holland, another recording for DGG. with von Karajan.
She sang Titania in Midsummer Night's Dream with Solti, his first new production when he became Musical Director of the Garden in 1960. She sang Jenifer in the Midsummer Marriage and recorded the part with Phillips (the first complete recording of this work).
Other things which Carlyle sang included Glauce to Callas's Medea in 1959 produced by Alexis Minotis, and Titania in the first performance at Covent recording of which was pirated and has been available for sale ever since! Garden of Benjamin Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream, and the Decca recording of Stravinsky's early opera Mavra as well as the 'Heavenly Voice' in Decca's release of Verdi's Don Carlos under Georg Solti.
She sang Le Serment for the BBC, a work by Tannsmann.
Her performance of the Mahler Fourth with Benjamin Britten conducting and broadcast by the BBC has been issued on disc without her permission. There is also a pirated recording of her Nedda from the Colon with Jon Vickers which she was not consulted about and was issued without her knowledge.