Jessye Norman, Grammy-Winning Opera Singer, Dies at 74

Monica Otayza
Oct 02, 2019
09:00 P.M.
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Award-winning opera singer Jessye Norman has passed away at age 74. She was known for her outstanding soprano voice that once won her four Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honor.


The Norman family, through their family spokesperson Gwendolyn Quinn, revealed that Jessye passed away at age 74 due to septic shock and multi-organ failure secondary to complications of a spinal cord injury that she suffered in 2015. She passed away at the Mount Sinai St. Luke's Hospital in New York surrounded by her loved ones.


The Norman Family's Statement

In her family's statement, they remembered Jessye for her contributions to the music industry, and for her beautiful soul that was their source of joy.

“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. We are equally proud of her humanitarian endeavors addressing matters such as hunger, homelessness, youth development, and arts and culture education."


A Pioneer Opera Singer

Jessye was one of the few black singers who reached worldwide stardom in the opera world, performing in houses like La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera.

She sang title roles in works like "Carmen," and "Aida," among many others. She was known to perform the works of Wagner but was not limited to just opera or classical music, as she performed songs by Duke Ellington as well.


Opera in the 21st Century

In the modern world today, not many are still drawn towards singing Opera. In fact, on mainstream television contests like "The Voice," rarely any contestants ever join to sing opera. However, in Australia, one daring man named Matthew Garwood decided to give it a try.

When Matthew Garwood walked onstage, the audience most likely expected him to sing anything but opera music, as he donned a black tank top that showed off his tattooed chest, arms, and neck.


A Surprising Turn of Events

As soon as he started singing, fans were blown away by the genre he chose to sing: he sang "All I Ask of You" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera."

Ricky Martin pressed the red button to turn around, and he was surprised to see the unique performer. When all the other judges turned around, they were surprised to see Matthew the way he was.

Ricky Martin at the iHeart Radio Awards | Source: Getty Images/GlobalImagesUkraine

Ricky Martin at the iHeart Radio Awards | Source: Getty Images/GlobalImagesUkraine


The Future of Opera

In the end, Matthew would reach the finals and release his own album a couple of months after. As for why he chose to excel in opera he said:

"I've always been into musical theater because I love the dramatics of it."

With the likes of Jessye Norman setting an example for the world stage and now Matthew Garwood giving opera a chance to shine, there is hope for the genre to continue being one of the best in the world.

Rest In Peace, Jessye.

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