Jessye Norman, the celebrated opera star has died.
Norman passed away this morning at at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital in NYC. Her spokesperson, Gwendolyn Quinn confirmed to People,
“It is with deep sadness and sorrow that we announce the passing of international opera star Jessye Norman.”
“We are so proud of Jessye’s musical achievements and the inspiration that she provided to audiences around the world that will continue to be a source of joy. We are equally proud of her humanitarian endeavors addressing matters such as hunger, homelessness, youth development, and arts and culture education.”
Norman died of
“septic shock and multi-organ failure secondary to complications of a spinal cord injury she had sustained in 2015.”
Born in Augusta, Georgia, Norman grew up singing in her church and in a musical family that included pianists and singers.
Her Metropolitan Opera debut was in New York in September 1983. (I was working at Vanity Fair magazine at the time and remember her debut sent shock waves through the artistic community. An incredible, breakthrough talent had arrived.)
Norman quickly was recognized as one of the greatest operatic singers of all time, as well THE leading African-American opera singer, in a white-dominated industry.
In total, Norman was nominated for 15 total Grammy Awards, picking up four wins — including best classical vocal soloist performance and best opera recording — and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.
In 1997, Norman made history when she became the youngest person ever to earn the Kennedy Center Honor at age 52. She received the National Medal of Arts in 2009 from then President Barack Obama.
Besides performing, Norman served on multiple 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.
Social media mourned the loss. One user wrote,
“One of the true greats in the world of music has gone on to take her place with the other gods.”
Jessye Norman was 74.
Behold the artistry, the brilliance as she sings When I am Laid in Earth.
“Death is now a welcome guest
When I am laid in earth, May my wrongs create
No trouble in thy breast;
Remember me, but ah! forget my fate”
(Photo, YouTube; via People)