Jessye Norman |

Jessye Norman |

Jessye Norman

Date of birth
Date of death
Voice type

American operatic and chamber singer (soprano). After graduating from the University of Michigan with a master’s degree in music, Norman spent the summer diligently preparing for the International Music Competition in Munich (1968). Then, as now, the path to the operatic Olympus began in Europe. She won, critics called her the greatest soprano since Lotte Lehmann, and offers from European musical theaters rained down on her like a cornucopia.

In 1969 she made her debut in Berlin as Elisabeth (Wagner’s Tannhäuser), in 1972 at La Scala as Aida (Verdi’s Aida) and at Covent Garden as Cassandra (Berlioz’s Trojans). Other opera parts include Carmen (Bizet’s Carmen), Ariadne (R. Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos), Salome (R. Strauss’s Salome), Jocasta (Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex).

From the mid-1970s, she performed only in concerts for some time, then returned to the opera stage again in 1980 as Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss at the Staatsoper Hamburg. In 1982, she made her debut on the American opera stage in Philadelphia – before that, the black singer gave only concert tours in her homeland. Norman’s long-awaited debut at the Metropolitan Opera took place in 1983 in Berlioz’s dilogy Les Troyens, in two parts, Cassandra and Dido. Jesse’s partner at the time was Placido Domingo, and the production was a huge success. In the same place, at the Met, Norman subsequently performed superbly Sieglinde in Richard Wagner’s Valkyrie. This Der Ring des Nibelungen conducted by J. Levine was recorded, as was Wagner’s Parsifal, where Jessie Norman sang the part of Kundry. In general, Wagner, along with Mahler and R. Strauss, has always formed the basis of Jesse Norman’s opera and concert repertoire.

At the beginning of the XXI century, Jessie Norman was one of the most versatile, popular and highly paid singers. She invariably demonstrated bright vocal abilities, refined musicality and a sense of style. Her repertoire included the richest chamber and vocal-symphonic repertoire from Bach and Schubert to Mahler, Schoenberg (“Songs of Gurre”), Berg and Gershwin. Norman also recorded several CDs of spirituals and popular American as well as French songs. Recordings include the parts of Armida in Haydn’s opera of the same name (dir. Dorati, Philips), Ariadne (video, dir. Levine, Deutsche Grammophon).

Jesse Norman’s many awards and prizes include over thirty honorary doctorates from colleges, universities and conservatories around the world. The French government granted her the title of Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters. Francois Mitterrand awarded the singer with the badge of the Legion of Honor. UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Keller appointed her Honorary Ambassador of the United Nations in 1990. Inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame. Norman is a five-time Grammy Music Award winner and was awarded the US National Medal of Arts in February 2010.

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