Jessye Norman | Photo by John Mathew Smith & www.celebrity-photos.com from Laurel Maryland, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0

By Dianne Nicolini

“Regal” is a word that was often used to describe a performance by American soprano Jessye Norman. She just had this amazing presence on stage and on recordings. The round, profound and impressive sound of her voice was distinctive and unforgettable. Norman grew up in a musical family in Georgia and attended Howard University on a vocal arts scholarship. During the 1980s and ’90s, she graced the stages of opera houses and concert halls all over the world. In addition to receiving several honorary doctorates, she also received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Medal of Arts, and was a member of the British Royal Academy of Music. Jessye Norman died today in New York City of complications from a spinal injury; she was 74.

By Jim Svejda

The first time I saw Jessye Norman in concert was in the early 1970s, when we were both much younger. She was just beginning to make a name and sang–rather unusually–only the final scene of Strauss’s Capriccio with the Syracuse Symphony. I was sitting next to a soprano who also worked at WONO Syracuse. Throughout the entire performance, her mouth was wide open–which was certainly nothing new–but for the first and only time that I knew her, nothing was coming out. Even then, it was that kind of voice and Jessye was that kind of singer.

This week and next on The Record Shelf (Sunday evening at 10:00) the scheduled programs will be replaced by a two-part program based on the last interview I did with Jessye Norman in 2015.

Please feel free to share your stories, memories, favorite performances and more in the comments below.

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