The Australian-born soprano began singing concerts and operas in her homeland in the late 1940s, and started performing extensively in smaller roles at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in the 1950s. Her performance in the title role of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor at Covent Garden in 1959, in a production by Franco Zefferelli, catapulted her to worldwide fame.
Sutherland continued to perform for another 30 years in the world's greatest opera houses, in such works as La Traviata, Semiramide, Norma, Esclamonde, Les Huguenots, and Die Fledermaus, to name a few.
She also made dozens of recordings, and won the 1981 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocalist. In 1988, she wrote her autobiography, A Prima Donna's Progress.
Among her honors are a Companion of the Order of Australia, Dame of the British Empire, and the Order of Merit.
She is survived by her husband, Australian conductor and pianist Richard Bonynge, whom she married in 1954, and their son, Adam.