Over the past few weeks, performers, listeners, teachers, and professionals in the worlds of opera and classical music have been united in mourning the death of soprano Jessye Norman (1945 - 2019). Born in Augusta, Georgia (USA), she remains one of the world's most powerful and moving dramatic sopranos. She was one of the first and only Black singers to rise to international stardom in the opera and recital world, and she inspired several generations of young performers.
Pioneering producer, sound engineer, and Schulich professor Martha de Francisco was one of Norman's recording producers for Philips (1986-2000). On Slipped Disc, she recounts some personal memories of knowing and working with Norman, while creating the recordings that will continue to touch us for many years to come.
"The recording of Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos ... offered me the opportunity to admire Jessye Norman’s immense musicality and the power of her voice from the close-up perspective of a record producer. We recorded the opera for Philips at the Neues Gewandhaus in Leipzig in 1988. Jessye’s Ariadne was magnificent, majestic and profoundly human. During a longer break between our recording sessions, I was an accomplice as Jessye escaped to visit Johann Sebastian Bach’s Saint Thomas Church where we listened to a concert of cantatas sang by the Thomaner boys’ choir. Sitting with Jessye Norman right next to Johann Sebastian Bach’s grave, feeling her emotion and mine as we listened to this music together while being aware of the composer’s physical presence in front of us, was a unique experience that I keep deeply in my heart."
Read the full article here. Thank you to Professor de Francisco for sharing her thoughts.