Jessye Norman, one of the world’s most admired vocalists, died in New York on Sept. 30 at the age of 74. According to a statement issued by her family, the cause was septic shock and multi-organ failure resulting from complications of a spinal cord injury the American soprano sustained in 2015.
“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,” the statement reads. “We are equally proud of her humanitarian endeavors addressing matters such as hunger, homelessness, youth development, and arts and culture education.”
Norman visited Toronto in February to accept the 12th Glenn Gould Prize. At the time, the Glenn Gould Foundation published this summary of her career:
“Jessye Norman made her operatic debut in 1969 at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and has since won acclaim for her performances in a wide range of leading roles with the world’s premier opera companies, in solo recitals and in concerts with preeminent orchestras around the globe. Her exceptional artistry has earned her the reputation as one of the most versatile concert and operatic singers of her time. She has more than seventy-five recordings of her eclectic repertoire to her credit. She is well known for her mastery of the music of Richard Strauss and Wagner, two of Glenn Gould’s favourite composers.
“Given the exceptional range of her voice, she has sung soprano, mezzo-soprano and alto repertoire throughout her career. Ms. Norman is the recipient of many international awards and honours including The Kennedy Center Honor, five Grammy awards including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for Classical Music, more than 30 honourary doctorates, the NAACP’s Springarn Award and The National Medal of Art, presented to her by President Barack Obama.
“A true global citizen, Jessye Norman has sung at two Presidential Inaugurations, President Jimmy Carter’s Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, Queen Elizabeth’s 60th birthday concert, the 70th birthday concert to free Nelson Mandela (seen by 600 million viewers), the first commemorative concert at Ground Zero following the 9/11 attacks, and was chosen by France to sing La Marseillaise for the bicentennial of the French Revolution.”
“Known as a devoted mentor and generous supporter of young artists and emerging talent, Ms. Norman is also admired for her humanitarian contributions and her passionate advocacy of arts education which includes helping to establish The Jessye Norman School of the Arts in her hometown of Augusta, Georgia.”