Jessye Norman, one of the leading voices of opera who won several awards by way of her immense talent, has died. Norman was one of the few Black superstars of the genre who wished to see more diversity in her field.
The New York Metropolitan Opera described Norman as “one of the great sopranos of the past half-century.”
“Norman sang more than 80 performances with the company, dazzling audiences with her beautiful tone, extraordinary power, and musical sensitivity,” the Met said in a statement.
Norman won four Grammy awards and a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy in 2006.
“Jessye Norman was one of the greatest artists to ever sing on our stage,” said Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb. “Her legacy shall forever live on.”
Norman was born on September 15, 1945, in Augusta, Ga. Although she began singing in the church as a child, it was her weekly listening of the radio broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera on weekends where she would discover her passion. Norman credited Black opera pioneers Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price among her inspirations.
The Howard University graduate honed her career in Europe beginning in the late 1960s, which carried over in the using decades en route to her becoming one of the top soprano singers.
Joining forces with the Rachel Longstreet Foundation in 2003, Norman opened the Jessye Norman School of the Arts in her hometown, which is billed as an institution for economically disadvantaged students free of charge.
Jessye Norman was 74.