Jessye Norman

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Norman, Jessye,

1945–2019, American soprano, b. Augusta, Ga., studied Howard Univ. (B.A., 1967), Univ. of Michigan, and Peabody Conservatory. Making her early reputation in Europe, Norman won first prize in the Munich International Music Competition in 1968, debuted in Wagner's Tannhäuser in 1969 with the Berlin Opera, and was a great success as Verdi's Aïda at Milan's La Scala and London's Covent Garden in 1972. She made her American debut in 1982 as Jocasta in Oedipus Rex, her Metropolitan Opera debut the following year as Cassandra in Berlioz's Les Troyens, and eventually sang more than 80 performances there. A majestic diva, she won praise for her enormous vocal power and range, shimmering tonal warmth, and clarity of diction. One of the most acclaimed musical artists of the late 20th cent. and one of the few African-Americans to achieve international opera stardom, Norman commanded a broad operatic repertoire and also frequently performed concerts of lieder, spirituals, oratorios, and a variety of other works. An extremely successful recording artist as well, she received five Grammy awards as well as one for lifetime achievement (2006).


See her memoir, Stand Up Straight and Sing (2014).

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Norman, Jessye

(1945–  ) soprano; born in Augusta, Ga. After musical studies in America, she went to Europe, making her 1969 operatic debut in Berlin. She first appeared in America in 1972, in a concert performance of Aida at Hollywood Bowl; her debut at the Metropolitan Opera came in Les Troyens in 1983. She pursued regular concert work as well. She was widely admired for the opulent tone she brought to a repertoire ranging from Mozart to Wagner and African-American spirituals.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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