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The American soprano Jessye Norman (born 15 September 1945) is one of the most admired contemporary opera singers and recitalists. A true dramatic soprano with a majestic stage presence, Norman is associated in particular with the roles of Aïda, Cassandra, Alceste, and Leonora in Fidelio.
Norman was born in Augusta, Georgia in a family of amateur musicians; her mother a pianist, her father a singer in a local choir.
Norman received a scholarship to Howard University, graduating in 1967 with a degree in music. The following year, she won an international music competition in Munich. She made her operatic debut in 1969 as Elisabeth in Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser at the Berlin State Opera, and in subsequent years performed with various German and Italian opera companies. She returned to the US to make her professional concert debut at Lincoln Center in 1973.
In addition to her operatic performances, Norman gives regular recitals, singing arias, Lieder, and spirituals. She has premiered the song cycle woman.life.song by composer Judith Weir , a work commissioned for her by Carnegie Hall, with texts by Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Norman also recently also performed a selection of sacred music of Duke Ellington. She also recorded a jazz album, Jessye Norman Sings Michel Legrand.
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