Jessye Norman didn’t sing very often at La Scala, but the impact on the few occasions when she appeared was great. The opera house released the following photos from its archives today to remember the soprano, who died yesterday morning in New York following complications from a spinal cord injury she sustained in 2015. She was 74.
The management and all the workers at La Scala Theatre have learned with deep sorrow the news of the passing of Jessye Norman, an astounding artist for her exceptional voice, musical intelligence and interpretative sensitivity, which took her to the highest pinnacle of the art of singing of all time.
When she was 27, on 18 April 1972, she appeared in Aida conducted by Claudio Abbado in a production by Giorgio de Lullo, costumes by Pier Luigi Pizzi, with Gianfranco Cecchele as Radamès. It was her only operatic appearance.
On 22 June 1977, she sang Schönberg’s Sechs Lieder under the baton of Aldo Ceccato.
Norman returned on 9 February 1981 with pianist Phillip Moll for a recital of Haydn, Berg, Poulenc and Strauss.
Her last appearance was on 22 November 1987 with Geoffrey Parsons for a recital featuring the music of Handel, Mahler, Berg, Debussy and Strauss, finishing with a group of spirituals.
Norman sang at the presidential inaugurations of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, and at the 60th birthday celebrations of Queen Elizabeth in 1986.
Three years later, she sang La Marseillaise in Paris on the 200th anniversary of Bastille Day, dressed in an eye-catching gown representing the Tricolore flag.
She was also the recipient of numerous accolades, including five Grammy Awards and the Kennedy Center Honor (making her, at 52, the youngest to win the prize in its 20-year history). – Gramophone Magazine
Below, one of Jessye Norman’s last recitals, in Ghent, Belgium, in 2012.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.