Jessye Norman, 1945–2019

In the fall of 2019, the entire Met family—along with the opera world at large—mourned the loss of Jessye Norman, one of the great sopranos of the past half-century.

Starting with her Met debut as Cassandra in Berlioz’s Les Troyens on Opening Night of the Met’s centennial 1983–84 season, Georgia-born soprano Jessye Norman sang more than 80 performances in ten operas with the company, dazzling audiences with her beautiful tone, extraordinary power, and musical sensitivity. A revered Wagnerian, at the Met she was beloved for her interpretations of Elisabeth in Tannhäuser, Sieglinde in Die Walküre (which streams this week), and Kundry in Parsifal. Her wide-ranging Met repertoire also included works by Poulenc, Janáček, Bartók, and Schoenberg—including thrilling performances in the company premieres of Erwartung and The Makropulos Case.  She will perhaps be best remembered for her glorious, definitive portrayal of the title role of Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, pictured above. “She was one of the greatest artists to ever sing on our stage,” said General Manager Peter Gelb. “Her legacy shall forever live on.”

On November 24, 2019, the Met held a special memorial tribute in Norman’s memory, including performances by Renée Fleming, Eric Owens, and Lise Davidsen, as well as remarks by friends and family including actress and playwright Anna Deveare Smith (a short excerpt follows).

Take a look back at some of Norman’s most celebrated roles.


image4z8gm.pngAs Cassandra in Berlioz’s Les Troyens 

Norman, Jessye Elisabeth Tannhäuser 1986-87_ Met Archives.jpgAs Elisabeth in Wagner’s Tannhäuser

Norman, Jessye Sieglinde Die Walkure 1988-89_Winnie Klotz-Met Archives.jpgAs Sieglinde in Wagner’s Die Walküre

Norman, Jessye Kundry Parsifal 1990-91_Winnie Klotz (2)HR.jpgAs Kundry in Wagner’s Parsifal

Norman as lidoine.jpgAs Madame Lidoine in Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites

Norman, Jessye Oedipus Rex Jocasta 1083-84 James Heffernan.jpgAs Jocasta in Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex

Norman, Jessye Judith Bluebeard's Castle 1988-89_Erika Davidson (4)a.jpgAs Judith in Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle

Norman, Jessye The Woman Erwartung 1988-89_Winnie Klotz (1)HRa.jpg
As the Woman in Schoenberg’s Erwartung

Norman, Jessye Emilia Marty The Makropulos Case 1995-96_Met Archives.jpgAs Emilia Marty in Janáček’s The Makropulos Case

JessyeNorman320A copy.jpgA memorial tribute for Norman held on the Met stage in 2019