In an indication of her worldwide stature, Ms. Norman was tapped to sing “La Marseillaise” in Paris on the 200th anniversary of Bastille Day — which she did, in dramatic fashion, at the obelisk on the Place de la Concorde earlier than an array of world leaders, carrying a grand tricolor robe designed by Azzedine Alaïa. She additionally sang at the second inaugurations of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.
She turned a significant recording artist at the daybreak of the compact disc period, leaving a wealthy catalog of opera, lieder, spirituals and recitals. One of her most acclaimed recordings was a classic account of Strauss’s “Four Last Songs,” backed by Kurt Masur and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. “Her generous heart, dignified manner and noble voice seem ideally suited to Strauss’s valedictory utterances,” Gramophone wrote in its evaluation.
In individual she lower an imposing determine, dressing dramatically and talking with a diva’s excellent diction. When she entered a room, heads turned. And even after she left the opera stage she remained a stressed, probing artist — collaborating with the dancer, choreographer and director Bill T. Jones in 1999 on a bit referred to as “How! Do! We! Do!’’ and later singing anarchic music by John Cage.
More lately she was engaged on a undertaking referred to as “Sissieretta Jones: Call Her By Her Name!” that paid tribute to Jones, who in 1893 turned the primary African-American girl to headline a live performance on the primary stage of Carnegie Hall — and who had bristled at her stage identify, “the Black Patti,” which in contrast her to the white diva Adelina Patti.
“Thirty years out of slavery for African-Americans in this country, here she was on the stage of Carnegie Hall,” Ms. Norman stated in an interview last year.
In her memoir, Ms. Norman recalled considered one of her personal earliest stabs at singing opera in entrance of an viewers. She was in junior highschool when, at a trainer’s urging, she carried out the aria “My Heart at Thy Sweet Voice” from Saint-Saëns’s “Samson and Delilah.” She had been singing it in English at church capabilities and grocery store openings, however for the varsity efficiency her trainer had her study it in its unique French.
“I do think that if you can stand up and sing in French in front of an assembly full of middle-schoolers,” Ms. Norman wrote, “then you can do just about anything.”
Neil Genzlinger contributed reporting.