Jessye Norman - "When I Am Laid In Earth (Dido's Lament)"
In appreciation of Black History Month, all of February will feature Black and Mixed Race artists.
When it comes to singers, there have been few voices considered as majestic as soprano Jessye Norman's. The celebrated opera singer from Augusta, Ga. has meticulously built a career on her own terms, choosing her projects intelligently and carefully guarding her vocal resources, which have often been described as a force of nature.
The 71-year-old artist recently added author to her list of accomplishments. Norman has written a memoir, Stand Up Straight and Sing! From experiencing racism as a child to watching the fall of the Berlin Wall to her storied opera career, Norman talks about her life and her music with an openness rarely heard before in her interviews.
Jessye Norman’s 1998-1999 performances included a recital at Carnegie Hall in New York City, which had an unusual program incorporating sacred music of Duke Ellington, scored for jazz combo, string quartet and piano, and featuring the Alvin Ailey Repertory dance Ensemble. Other performances during the season included Das Leid von der Erde, with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a television special for Christmas filmed in her hometown of Augusta, Georgia, as well as a spring recital tour, which included performances in Tel Aviv. The following season also brought performances of the sacred music of Duke Ellington to London and Vienna, together with a summer European tour, which included performances at the Salzburg Festival.
The vocal phenomenon that is Jessye Norman has long been acknowledged as possessing one of the world’s most beautiful voices. The sheer size, power, and luster of her voice share equal acclaim with that for her thoughtful, provocative music-making, prompting one writer to observe that "her vocal phrasing moves beyond mere seamlessness to convey a more ardent, spontaneous passion." Often cited for her innovative programming and fervent advocacy of contemporary music, she has earned the recognition of another writer who describes her as "one of those once –in-a-generation singers who isn’t simply following in the footsteps of others, but is staking out her own niche in the history of singing."
She is a legend, a dynamo and an incredible human being, who has fought for equality and longer than most. She forced the world to see beyond stereotypes and challenged America to see their perceptions of classical and beautiful differently.
So today, with passion like a bonfire I choose Jessye Norman's version of "When I Am Laid In Earth (Dido's Lament)" by Purcell, as my, rage against the dying of the light, fight for every inch, know that you've given it all you've got, song for an, adventure around every corner, flights of fantasy, walk where you have not dared to trod before, Tuesday.