Jessye Norman -- Diva for a Day

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), April 18, 2001 | Go to article overview

Jessye Norman -- Diva for a Day


They're billing this as the ``concert of the year,'' and that might not be hyperbole: world-famous soprano Jessye Norman is holding a recital on April 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the concert hall of the Seoul Arts Center.

Norman is one of the world's most sought-after performers, and this rare appearance means tickets will be scooped up quickly. In her 32-year professional career she has received almost every accolade there is, from many honorary doctorates to having an orchid named after her by the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, to being named Honorary Ambassador to the United Nations in 1990. That's because Norman has built up a string of stellar performances, and has become an operatic legend in her own lifetime.

Born in Augusta, Georgia in 1945, Norman began singing at the age of two and had an entire repertoire of songs she sung in church by the age of four. However, she didn't receive voice lessons until she was 16. She was offered a scholarship to Howard University, and after graduating in 1967 went on to study at the Peabody Conservatory and entered graduate school at the University of Michigan.

While in her early 20s, Norman won several vocal competitions, the most important being the International Music Competition in Munich, which led to her first professional engagement, with the Deutsche Oper in Berlin in 1969. She debuted there as Elisabeth in Wagner's ``Tannhauser.'' Four years later, she went to London to perform with the Royal Opera.

In 1975 Norman began to turn down all invitations to do opera, and for five years concentrated on singing lieder in recitals throughout the world.

Norman's U.S. stage debut was in a performance of Stravinsky's ``Oedipus Rex'' at the Opera Company in Philadelphia in 1982. One of her career highlights was opening the Metropolitan Opera's 100th anniversary season in 1984 in a production of Berloiz' ``Les Troyens'' that ran nearly five hours and was televised nationally. That same year, Norman sang for President Reagan's inauguration. At the Met, Norman made opera history in the 1988-89 season by appearing in the company's first presentation of a one-character opera, Schoenberg's ``Erwartung.'' In 1989 she was seen by millions around the globe, singing the ``Marseillaise'' during a telecast of festivities celebrating France's bicentenary of the French Revolution.

Some of the greatest names in opera and classical music, such as Herbert von Karajan and Jmaes Levine, have worked with Norman, and of course she has earned several awards for her recordings with them and others. …

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