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May 2014
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Jessye Norman at WFMT

Dramatic Soprano Jessye Norman

Dramatic Soprano Jessye Norman

Legendary soprano Jessye Norman played DJ at WFMT on Monday. In town to speak at the Chicago Humanities Festival, Ms. Norman stopped by to “Guest Host” – choose the music and chat about it with Kerry Frumkin. They talked about her career which includes five Grammy Awards, and about life as an international performer. At one point she told Kerry she doesn’t like to listen to opera when she relaxes. She prefers Nina Simone or Nat King Cole. She shared a Nina Simone rendition of “My Man’s Gone Now” from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Ms. Norman also read from her memoir: Stand up Straight and Sing!


Jessye Norman was just a girl when she began to shine; from a musical family in Augusta, Georgia, she started singing gospel in church at the age of 4. At her mother’s insistence, she studied the piano, and at age 9 began listening to opera. The sheer power and richness of her voice pointed her toward the Germanic roles: Strauss and Wagner. In 1969 she won the ARD International Music Competition in Munich and landed a three-year contract with the Deutsche Oper Berlin. In 1975 she moved to London, gaining a reputation as a recitalist and performer of art song. Ms. Norman also began recording her much-acclaimed series on Philips, including Strauss’s Four Last Songs, Songs of Schubert, and Schoenberg. The Philips recordings continue to be among the most popular in that repertoire, inspiring singers who’ve followed in her footsteps. Of Jessye Norman, dramatic soprano Christine Brewer (presently performing in Lyric Opera’s The Sound of Music) said, “I love her. I’ve never met her – but oh, I love her.”

Jessye Norman returns to Chicago to speak at the Chicago Humanities Festival, Monday, May 19 at 6:00 pm.


Kerry Frumkin and Jessye Norman



Brahms: Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53
RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra / Fritz Reiner
Marian Anderson, s
RCA 1446

Wagner: Tannhäuser: Act III, “Allmächt’ge Jungfrau, hör mein Flehen” (Elisabeth’s Prayer)
London Philharmonic Orchestra / Klaus Tennstedt
Jessye Norman, soprano

Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro, K.492: “E Susanna non vien!,” “Dove sono i bei momenti”
BBC Symphony Orchestra / Sir Colin Davis
Jessye Norman, soprano

Gershwin: “My Man’s Gone Now”
Nina Simone: vocal, piano
Eric Gale, guitar; Rudy Stevenson, guitar; Ernie Hayes, organ; Bob Bushnell, bass; Bernard Purdie, drums and timpani; Buddy Lucas, harmonica and tenor sax

Bach: Suite for Cello solo no 4 in E flat major, BWV 1010, Allemande, Allegro Moderato
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
Sony 38DC144

Strauss: Four Last Songs, AV 150, “Beim Schlafengehen”
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/ Kurt Masur
Jessye Norman, soprano
Philips 411052

Strauss: “Zueignung,” op. 10/1
Leipzig Gewandhaus / Kurt Masur
Philips 411 052-2

  • Sonia Csaszar

    It was a gem of a program! Thank you so much!

  • Hosea Arcadian


  • ODETTE2012

    thanks! wonderful article. Oh yes I know of all of these! I grew up on Tchaikovsky and transgender. I could not escape the lovely feminine music; nor did I ever try. I was an early trans activist for 20 years.
    Now I am living as fully transitioned woman; out everywhere. I adore Lenny Bernstein; attended his very last BSO concert at Tanglewood in August 1990, six weeks before his death; as a woman of course.

  • Julius Eastman.

  • Le Boss

    Szymanowsky. The leading polish composer. A genius.


    I think many poets were gay but still had to refer to ‘maidens’ and ‘lasses’ to avoid being ostracised, or worse. Schubert may have had a special empathy for these poets when he set some of his finest lieder to their poetry.

  • Ciel Raven Lilith Phantome

    You’ve equivocated gay relationships and pederasty in this article. That does nothing to advance the cause. Both Brunet and “Bob” were young teenagers and it’s disgusting to list those pedophiliac relationships next to egalitarian homosexual relationships.

  • Forte Piano

    Literally Percy Grainger was the epitome of this list. How tf is he not here?

  • Renee Faison

    I don’t approve of homosexuality in any of its forms but that doesn’t mean that because Handel was or might have been gay,that I can’t enjoy and fully appreciate his talent. Sin is sin and the world is full of sinners who excel in many things that we all enjoy!

    • plazzah

      well said

  • Donald Snyder

    Ned Rorem should be on this list also.

  • Scott Friedman

    It would be respectful to the late Pauline Oliveros if you went back and updated the article, which first appeared in 2015, to at least change verbal references to her to the past tense. Also, please revise the following sentence about Jennifer Higdon: “She married longtime partner Cheryl Lawson in August 2014, whom she met in band class in high school” to read: “In August 2014 she married longtime partner Cheryl Lawson, whom she met in band class in high school.”

  • disqus_xQFuvex8is

    This list is white AF.