Soprano Jessye Norman: A timeline of the great American singer’s life

Soprano Jessye Norman wowed opera audiences the world over. Here, we give you a guide to some of her highlights

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 31:  Contemporary opera singer Jessye Norman sings during a ceremony honoring the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington as (L to R) U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) listen July 31, 2013 in Washington, DC. The March on Washington began 50-year-ago on August 28, 1963.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

1945: Jessye Norman is born in Augusta, Georgia. Her father, Silas, sings in a local choir and her mother, Janie, is an accomplished pianist.

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1962: Returning home from the Marian Anderson Vocal Competition in Philadelphia she auditions for, and earns, a place at Howard University in Washington DC.

1972: A successful early career in Germany leads to her landing the title role in Verdi’s Aida at La Scala, Milan. The same year also sees her first appearance at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, among other high-profile engagements in Europe.

1983: She flies behind the Iron Curtain to East Germany to record Strauss’s Four Last Songs with the Leipzig Gewandhaus and conductor Kurt Masur. The disc soon becomes a best seller.

1997: Twelve years after singing at the second presidential inauguration of Ronald Reagan, she does likewise for Bill Clinton, having also sung at the opening of the Olympic Games in Atlanta the previous year.

2009: She curates Honor!, a multiarts celebration of African-American trailblazers, in several venues across New York City.

2019: She dies aged 74 in Manhattan as a result of complications from a spinal cord injury suffered in 2015.

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