Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Remembrance of Bastille Day with Jessye Norman

Jessye Norman
Screenshot from video

In 1989, in honor of the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution, Jessye Norman was invited to sing the French national anthem "La Marseillaise" in Paris at Place de la Concorde. Her performance was part of a grandiose celebration that was the brainchild of French designer and photographer Jean-Paul Goude. The celebration included a nocturnal parade down the Champs Elysées.

Norman's costume, which represented France's flag "Le Tricolore," was designed by Tunisian-born fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa.

To view the event, click on the video screen below:

A singer with an unusually large range in the soprano register, Norman is an Augusta, Georgia native. She fell in love with opera at a young age after hearing one broadcast on the radio, and went on to pursue formal musical studies at Howard University, the Peabody Conservatory, and the University of Michigan. She made her operatic debut in a 1969 production of Tannhaeuser at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Since that time, Norman has sung in scores of operas, concerts, and recitals, and has been the recipient of many honors and awards. She is an honorary fellow of Harvard and Cambridge universities, and has received honorary doctorates from, among other schools, Juilliard, Howard, Harvard and Yale. In 1990, Norman was named Honorary Ambassador to the United Nations by U.N. secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar.

Jessye Norman is held in very high esteem in France. In 1984, the French government made her a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, and the National Museum of Natural History (Muséum National de l'Histoire Naturelle) named an orchid after her (Phalaenopsis Jessye Norman). President François Mitterand bestowed the Legion of Honor upon her in 1989.

In 1997, Norman became the youngest recipient to date of the Kennedy Center Honors, the U.S.'s most prestigious award in the performing arts. In 2009, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.


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