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International opera star Jessye Norman dies at 74

2019-10-01

International opera star Jessye Norman, a four-time Grammy winner and National Medal of Arts recipient, died Monday, according to a family spokesperson. She was 74.

Norman died at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital in New York from septic shock and multi-organ failure secondary to complications of a spinal cord injury she had sustained in 2015, the Associated Press reported.

“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,” the family statement read.

A dramatic soprano, Norman was notable for following her own muse and pursuing opera roles that interested her regardless of whether they matched her singing style.

“As for my voice, it cannot be categorized — and I like it that way, because I sing things that would be considered in the dramatic, mezzo or spinto range,” she told the New York Times in 1983. "I like so many different kinds of music that I’ve never allowed myself the limitations of one particular range.”

“The rest is honesty — honesty of feeling, honesty of involvement. If a performer is truly committed, then the audience will be the first to know and will respond accordingly.”