Jessye Norman

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Jessye Norman

Mesaj  Admin Bir Ptsi Nis. 28, 2008 11:19 pm

This article is about the American opera singer. For the British politician, see Jesse Norman.
Jessye Norman (born September 15, 1945) is a four time Grammy award winning African American opera singer. Norman is one of the most admired contemporary opera singers and recitalists, and is one of the highest paid performers in classical music.
A true dramatic soprano with a majestic stage presence, Norman is associated in particular with the roles of Aïda, Cassandre, Alceste, and Leonora in Fidelio. Norman is known for the direct and emotionally expressive qualities of her singing and for her formidable intellectual understanding of the music and its style, as well as first-rate musicianship.
As a performer, she is known for her magnetic and dramatic personality, and, with her imposing physical presence, cuts an impressive, "just enormous" figure before audiences. According to Curt Sanburn in Life, Norman on stage creates the perception of one who "veritably looms behind her lyrics."
Norman's public manner combines an apparent hauteur with flashes of disarming humor, putting her squarely in the venerable operatic tradition of the Diva, to the extent that many credit her as the inspiration for the title character in the 1981 French film Diva.

Life and career
Early life and musical education
Jessye Mae Norman was born on September 15, 1945 in Augusta, Georgia to Silas Norman, an insurance salesman, and Janie King-Norman, a school teacher. She was one of five children in a family of amateur musicians; her mother and grandmother were both pianists, her father a singer in a local choir. Norman's mother insisted that she start piano lessons at an early age. Norman attended Charles T. Walker Elementary School, A.R. Johnson Junior High School, and Lucy C. Laney Senior High School, all in downtown Augusta.

Norman proved to be a talented singer as a young child, singing gospel songs at Mount Calvary Baptist Church at the tender age of four. At the age of nine, Norman heard opera for the first time on the radio and was immediately an opera fan.
She started listening to recordings of Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price who Norman credits as inspiring figures in her career.
At the age of 16, Norman entered the Marian Anderson Vocal Competition in Philadelphia which, although she did not win, led to her being offered a full scholarship to Howard University, a prestigious school founded for African-Americans in Washington, D.C.
While at Howard University, Norman sang in the university chorus, had a job as a soloist at the Lincoln Temple United Church of Christ, and studied voice with Carolyn Grant. In 1966 she won the National Society of Arts and Letters singing competition. After graduating in 1967 with a degree in music, she began graduate level studies at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and later at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, from which she earned a Masters Degree in 1968. During this time Norman studied voice with Elizabeth Mannion and Pierre Bernac.


Early career (1969-1979)
After graduating, Norman, like many young musicians at the time, moved to Europe to establish herself. In 1969 she won the ARD International Music Competition in Munich and landed a three-year contract with the Berlin State Opera. She made her operatic début that same year as Elisabeth in Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser at the Berlin State Opera. Critics at the time described Norman as having "the greatest voice since the German soprano Lotte Lehmann."

In subsequent years Norman performed with various German and Italian opera companies appearing often as princesses or other noble figures. Norman was exceptional at portraying a commanding and noble bearing. This ability was partly due to her uncommon height and size, but more so as a result of her unique, rich, and powerful voice. Norman's range was uncommonly wide, encompassing all female voice registers from contralto to high dramatic soprano. In 1970 she made her Italian début in Florence in Handel's Deborah. In 1971, Norman made her début at the Maggio Musicale in Florence appearing as Sélica in Meyerbeer's L'Africaine. That year she also sang the role of Countess Almaviva in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Berlin Festival and recorded the role that same year with the BBC Orchestra under the direction of Colin Davis. The recording was a finalist for the prestigious Montreux International Record Award competition and brought Norman much exposure to music listeners in Europe and the United States.

In 1972, Norman debuted at La Scala, where she sang the title role in Verdi's Aida and at London's Royal Opera at Covent Garden, where she sang the role of Cassandra in Hector Berlioz's Les Troyens. Norman appeared as Aida again in a concert version that same year in her first well-publicized American performance at the Hollywood Bowl. This was followed by an all-Wagner concert at the Tanglewood Festival in Lennox, Massachusetts, and a recital tour of the country. After which Norman went back to Europe for several engagements. Norman returned to the US again briefly to make her first-ever New York City recital where she appeared as part of the "Great Performers" series at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center. in 1973.

In 1975 Norman moved to London and had no staged opera appearances for the next five years. While she gave as the reason for her withdrawal the need to fully develop her voice, others felt that this was a period of concern for her weight and thus her stage image.
However, Norman remained internationally active as a recitalist and soloist in works such as Mendelssohn's Elijah and Franck's Les Béatitudes. Norman returned to North America again in 1976 and 1977 to make an extensive concert tour, but it wasn't until many years later that she would make her US Opera début or appear frequently in the United States. Only after Norman had established herself in Europe's leading opera houses and festivals -- including the Edinburgh Festival, Salzburg Festival, Aix-en-Provence Festival, and the Stuttgart Opera-- did Norman set out to establish herself in the United States. Norman toured Europe throughout the 1970s, giving recitals of works by Franz Schubert, Gustav Mahler, Wagner, Johannes Brahms, Erik Satie, Olivier Messiaen, and several contemporary American composers to great critical acclaim.


Mid-career (1980-89)
In October 1980 Norman returned to the operatic stage in the title role of Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos at the Hamburg State Opera in Hamburg, Germany. Norman made her US Opera début in 1982 with the Opera Company of Philadelphia, appearing in Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex as Jocasta and in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas as Dido. Norman followed this with her début at the Metropolitan Opera in 1983, appearing in Berlioz's Les Troyens as both Cassandra and Dido, a production which marked the company's 100th anniversary season. By the mid-1980s Norman was one of the most popular and highly regarded dramatic soprano singers in the world. She was invited to sing at the January 21, 1985, inauguration of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, an invitation which she debated as an African American, as a Democrat, and as a nuclear disarmament activist. But she did accept and sang the folk song "Simple Gifts." In 1986, Norman sang at Elizabeth II's sixtieth birthday celebration.That same year Norman appeared as a soloist in Strauss's Vier letzte Lieder with the Berliner Philharmoniker during its tour of the USA.

Over the years Norman has not been afraid to expand her talent into less familiar areas. In 1988 she sang a concert performance of Poulenc's one-act opera La Voix Humaine ("The Human Voice"), based on Jean Cocteau's 1930 play of the same name. During the 1980s and early 1990s, Norman produced numerous award-winning recordings, and many of her performances were televised. In addition to opera, many of Norman's recordings and performances during this time focused upon art songs, lieder, oratorios, and orchestral works. Her interpretation of Strauss's Four Last Songs is legendary. Its slowness is controversial, but the tonal qualities of her voice are ideal for these final works of the great Romantic German lieder tradition..

Norman is also known for the Gurre-Lieder of Arnold Schoenberg and for Schoenberg's one woman opera Erwartung. In 1989 Norman appeared at the Metropolitan Opera for a historic performance of Erwartung that marked the company's first single-character production. This opera was presented in a memorable double bill with Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle with Norman playing the role of Judith. Both operas were broadcast nationally. That same year, Norman was the featured soloist with Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. in its opening concert of its 148th season, which was telecast live to the nation by PBS. Also in 1989, Norman was invited to sing the French national anthem La Marseillaise in Paris at the Place de la Concorde as part of an elaborate pageant orchestrated by avant-garde designer Jean-Paul Goude.That same year Norman also performed at the Hong Kong Cultural Center opening and gave a recital at Taiwan's National Concert Hall.
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Mesaj  Admin Bir Ptsi Nis. 28, 2008 11:21 pm

Later career (1990-present)
Since the early 1990s Norman has lived in Croton on Hudson, NY in a secluded estate known as The White Gates which she purchased from television personality Allen Funt. In 1990 Norman performed at Tchaikovsky’s 150th Birthday Gala in Leningrad and she made her Lyric Opera of Chicago début in the title role of Gluck's Alceste. In 1991 Norman sang for the 700th Celebration Party of Swiss National Day.
That same year, she performed in a concert recorded live with Lawrence Foster and the Lyon Opera Orchestra amid the tantalizing acoustics at Paris's Notre Dame cathedral. In 1992 Norman sang Jocasta in Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex at the opening operatic production at the new Saito Kinen Festival in Matsumoto.
In 1993, Norman sang the title role in the Metropolitan Opera's production of Ariadne auf Naxos. In 1994, Norman sang at the funeral of former first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. In September 1995, she was again the featured soloist with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, this time under Kurt Masur's direction, in a gala concert telecast live to the nation by PBS making the opening of the orchestra's 153rd season. In 1996 Norman gave a highly lauded performance as the title character in the Metropolitan Opera’s premier production of Janacek’s The Makropulos Case.

Starting in the mid 1990s, Norman began to move away from soprano stage-roles migrating heavily toward mezzo soprano roles. In January of 1997, Norman performed at the second inauguration of U.S. President Bill Clinton. Jessye Norman’s 1998-1999 performances included a recital at Carnegie Hall in New York City, which had an unusual program incorporating sacred music of Duke Ellington, scored for jazz combo, string quartet and piano, and featuring the Alvin Ailey Repertory dance Ensemble. Other performances during the season included Das Lied von der Erde, with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a television special for Christmas filmed in her home town of Augusta, Georgia, as well as a spring recital tour, which included performances in Tel Aviv. The following season also brought performances of the sacred music of Duke Ellington to London and Vienna, together with a summer European tour, which included performances at the Salzburg Festival.

In 1999 Norman collaborated with choreographer-dancer Bill T. Jones in a project for New York City's Lincoln Center, called "How! Do! We! Do!" In 2000, Norman later released an album, I Was Born in Love with You, featuring the songs of Michel Legrand. The recording, reviewed as a jazz crossover project, featured Legrand on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Grady Tate on drums. In February and March of 2001, Norman was featured at Carnegie Hall in a three-part concert series. With James Levine on piano, the concerts were a significant arts event, replete with an 80-page program booklet featuring a newly commissioned watercolor portrait of Norman by David Hockney. In 2002, Norman performed at the opening of Singapore's Esplanade Theatres on the bay.

On March 11, 2002, Norman was given the honor of performing "America the Beautiful" at a memorial service unveiling two monumental columns of light at the site of the former World Trade Center, as a memorial for the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City. In 2002 she returned to Augusta to announce that she would fund a pilot school of the arts for children in Richmond County. Classes commenced at St. John United Methodist Church in the fall of 2003. In November of 2004, a documentary of Miss Norman's life and work to date, was created. This film, directed by Andre Heller, with Othmar Schmiderer as director of photography and produced by DOR-FILM of Vienna, chronicles the music, the social and political issues, the inspiration and dreams that combine to make this singer unique in her profession. In 2006, Norman collaborated with the modern dance choreographer, Trey McIntyre, for a special performance during the summer at the Vail, Colorado Dance Festival.

After more than thirty years on stage, Norman no longer performs ensemble opera, concentrating instead on recitals and concerts. In addition to her busy performance schedule, Jessye Norman serves on the Boards of Directors for The New York Public Library, the New York Botanical Garden, City-meals-on-Wheels in New York city, The Dance Theatre of Harlem. The National Music Foundation and The Elton John AIDS Foundation. She is a member of the board as well as National spokesperson for the LUPUS Foundation and spokesperson for The Partnership for the Homeless. And in her home town of Augusta, Georgia, she serves on the Board of Trustees of Paine College and The Augusta Opera Association.
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Wagner: 'Liebestod', Karajan & Norman - The Rehearsal

Mesaj  Admin Bir Ptsi Nis. 28, 2008 11:26 pm


Jessye Norman - Soprano
Herbert Von Karajan - Conductor

rehearsal from Salzburg Festival 1987.
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Jessy Norman sings Liebestod

Mesaj  Admin Bir Ptsi Nis. 28, 2008 11:33 pm


1987 Salzburg Festival. Karajan conducts the Wiener Philharmoniker
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Jessye Norman - Aria from Samson and Delilah

Mesaj  Admin Bir Ptsi Nis. 28, 2008 11:43 pm


Mesmerizing rendition of this beautiful aria from the opera Samson et Dalila by Saint-Saëns (Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix).
Orchestra of St. Luke's, Jane Glover conducts.
April 1994 at Avery Fisher Hall.
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