Jessye Norman (September 15, 1945 – September 30, 2019) was an American opera singer and recitalist. She was able to perform dramatic soprano roles, but refused to be limited to that voice type. She was a commanding presence on operatic, concert and recital stages, associated with roles including Beethoven’s Leonore, Wagner’s Sieglinde and Kundry, Cassandre and Didon by Berlioz and Bartók’s Judith. The New York Times music critic Edward Rothstein described her voice as a “grand mansion of sound”, and wrote that “it has enormous dimensions, reaching backward and upward. It opens onto unexpected vistas. It contains sunlit rooms, narrow passageways, cavernous halls.”
But… and I must tell you this is another tear jerker… when she sang a tribute to Sidney Portier at the 1995 Kennedy Center Honors she had Sidney Portier and Bill Clinton in tears. Who does that? I want to also share a little bit of her opera with you.
I remember when I was in Tallahassee and went to the opera alone. Afterward, I stopped in a restaurant and ate at the bar alone. The bartender was shocked that I would do that. I’ve told the story before I am sure about reading in Cosmo when I was just old enough to drive that you should be comfortable going to the movies alone. And a woman can go anywhere without a “date.” This was something that served me well in my life. I didn’t feel like a loser going to the movies alone I felt, empowered. Now I travel alone and live alone and I feel stronger for it. If you don’t have anyone in your life, you are still entitled to go to movies, travel, go learn about opera. You can do anything everyone else can.
Jesse sang at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Sadly she died in 2019.
My parents said to us, practically on a daily basis, that we were as good as anyone else on this earth, and that we would simply have to work harder in order to show that. ~ Jessye Norman
I know about her because she was from Augusta, Georgia. And we were all very proud of her and the world is a bit less without her