The dilapidated Woollahra cottage and grounds expected to fetch more than $5.5m.

The house Joan Sutherland grew up in has stood empty and derelict since the 1950s. The sprawling 803sqm property at 115 Queen Street, in the now-affluent suburb of Woollahra, is to be sold as prime residential real estate. But will it be restored to its former glory, and will this piece of Australian opera history at last be treated with respect?

The heritage building known as “Vine Cottage” was the Sydney home of Joan Sutherland during her formative years from 1932 to 1951. The house belonged to her aunt and uncle, who took in six-year-old Joan, her mother and sister after the death of Joan’s father.

The original house was a single-storey sandstone cottage built between 1856 and 1863, with a second storey added around 1891 by Richard Alston, Joan’s grandfather. The family sold the house after her departure: in 1951 the young soprano set out for studies at the Opera School of London’s Royal College of Music. She made her Covent Garden debut the following year.

In its current state of disrepair the structure is...

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