Born Jessye Mae Norman to middle class parents, Norman was surrounded by budding musicians from her early childhood. Her mother, who played the piano, encouraged Norman to start taking lessons for it as well. But the future soprano’s real talent was in singing, and Norman would regularly participate in church choirs, singing gospels.
During her long and illustrious career, Jessye Norman has amassed several professional achievements. She has performed in almost three dozen opera roles, ranging from Beethoven to Stravinsky, and Mozart to Wagner. Normal is particularly well-known for her many performances in Wagnerian operas, in such prominent roles as Leonore, Adiande, Seiglinde and Alceste. In addition to her operatic work, Norman has also lent her singing to countless orchestral productions. These include Mozart’s Die Gaertnerin aus Liebe
, Berlioz’s Romeo et Julliette
, Chausson’s Poème de l'amour et de la mer
, op. 19 along with Debussy’s L'Enfant prodigue
and La damoiselle élue
, to name just a few.
Norman has also toured Europe, performing at festivals like the Edinburgh Festival
in Scotland, the Salzburg Festival
in Austria and the Aix-en-Provence Festival
in southern France, among others. Jeseye Norman is also known for her extensive work in the field of recitals, and has collaborated with some of the world’s best orchestras. The latter have included the likes of the New York Philharmonic, London Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the English-speaking world. Other prominent collaborators have included Orchestre de Paris, Vienna Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic and the Israel Philharmonic.
The opera diva has secured dozens of awards as well. She has won four Grammy Awards for Best Opera Recording
, one each in 1988, 1989 ad 1998. The fourth was a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
in 2006. Norman was also awarded the 1982 Gramophone Award for her commercially released recording of Strauss’ "Four Last Songs" and inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1999. Norman has also had the distinct honor or winning Amsterdam’s Edison Award and France’s Grand Prix du Disque.
In addition to these awards, Norman has also been awarded honorary titles and degrees from many prestigious arts institutions all over the world. These include honorary doctorates from Howard University, Boston Conservatory of Music, University of the South, Yale, Manhattan School of Music, Cambridge, University of Michigan, Northwestern University and many more. In 989, Norman was also awarded the Légion d'honneur
. The following year, she was named the Honorary Ambassador to the UN, by hen UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar.
Frequently praised for her vocal ability, Norman’s singing range has been the subject of much discussion among experts and critics. While she is widely described as a dramatic soprano, Norman’s singing abilities have generally defied easy classification, much to the artist’s own delight. She has performed a variety of dynamic roles, many of which are traditionally performed by singers with different ranges than her. Many critics have argued that Norman’s range is, in fact, a rare one referred to as a Falcon.
Nevertheless, Jessye Norman is now widely regarded as one of the best opera singers in the United States. She is renowned for her meticulous and discerning attention to detail as well as her versatility. Norman’s latest show, Ask Your Mama!
– which features multimedia displays, a full orchestra, singing and poetry - has been very well-received so far. Critics have called it "a 90-minute tapestry of music, film and spoken word" and have commended it for its ambitious scale. The upcoming tour of Ask Your Mama!
is bound to be no exception, contemporary music fans are sure to be clamoring for a chance to see it. It will come as no surprise, therefore, if Jessey Norman
’s Ask Your Mama! tickets
are in high demand.
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