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Jessye Norman: "Stand Up Straight and Sing!"

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Opera legend Jessye Norman comes to Chicago to share her extraordinary journey from a childhood in segregated Augusta, Georgia, to star of the world's grandest stages. Her memoir "Stand Up Straight and Sing!" deepens our appreciation for her stunning musical gifts. Get up close and personal with one of history's greatest singers. Opera dramaturg Colin Ure joins Ms. Norman in conversation. This program is presented in partnership with Lyric Unlimited—an initiative of Lyric Opera of Chicago—and the School of the Art Institute. This program was recorded on May 19, 2014 as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival's Spring 2014 season: http://chf.to/CHF2014Spring
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Text Comments (119)
Rachelle Oliver-Ray (1 month ago)
A beautiful, stately, woman whose voice brings me peace♥️
Ida T. (1 month ago)
From what I’m reading, she was born and raised in Augusta, Georgia but here she seems to have a Transatlantic accent of some sort. Or an accent that isn’t distinguishable to me, but certainly not a Georgia accent. Anyone know why?
Craig Sorrells (4 months ago)
Just an amazing person!!!!
François Bessing (4 months ago)
LOVE this woman. Rich in culture, history, verbiage, spirit. Such a monument and the best of the African-American people.
Stephanie Hammett (9 months ago)
She speaks in such an incredibly moving way. So beautiful <3
xyzllii (1 year ago)
Great woman. How tragic racism is...horrible to hear once more about it.
serious (1 year ago)
To hear this legend speak so eloquently, intelligently, and not just as a "talking musician head" is absolutely heavenly. I wish I could have attended this event in person!
bfaye henry (1 year ago)
She's so Majestic and Regal.  Angela Bassett looks like a younger version of her :)
HARRY K (1 year ago)
'to sing somewhheaaaah', isn't she from fuckign Georgia? lol
Stunning gorgeous artist.
Cicero Filho (1 year ago)
I adore her voice in both speaking and opera. I would love her as an audio book reader, her voice is so calming.
simon govey (1 year ago)
Amazing person and singer.
recitalvoicepiano (1 year ago)
"It is rather ridiculous... to be the only african american to sing  major roles" I agree with you. Any soul any beautiful soul should be heard.
Carol Tanksley (1 year ago)
I attended the University of Michigan School of Music with Jessye and studied with the same voice teacher. She is as lovely and down to earth as she appears in this interview! Wonderful sense of humor and thoughtful of others.
TruthSerum101 (2 years ago)
Madam Dorothy (2 years ago)
Ah! Jessye Norman! Your life and times accentuated by music and song! BRAVA!
GERMAN QUINTERO (2 years ago)
Linda SmilesRFree (2 years ago)
I am truly inspired by this wonderful woman; she is exquisite.
Don McFarlane (2 years ago)
I discovered Jessye Norman about 30 years ago, and have never failed to be inspired by the richness and range of her voice, the majesty of her bearing and the depth of her humility. I return often to her concert with Kathleen Battle at the Carnegie Hall, in which her interpretation of a number of spirituals sets the standard for this particular genre of music.
susana marenco (2 years ago)
a wonderful singer, a wonderful lady!!!
kirkann spence (2 years ago)
she has that peaceful aura.
François Bessing (4 months ago)
YES _ I love it. So go with the flow but full of power.
Henk Spierings (2 years ago)
Good interview. Here is a talented and educated woman. Groundbreaking stuff to have sung Wagner.
Christopher Johnson (2 years ago)
The family unit of African Americans was more intact in the 40s and 50s and this is the quality and pedigree of what it produced. Since the onset of the civil rights movement, the breakdown of the African American family, and the welfare state, you get the result you see today.
serious (1 year ago)
Christopher Johnson So, what you're basically saying is since African Americans broke free from Jim Crow laws and murderous racism, they've faired badly? How foolish and ridiculous of you. Do you not realize that this "pedigree" that you speak of has diminished in EVERY culture around the world, including YOURS? As time has progressed, the family structure of ALL CULTURES has considerably broken down. The fact that African Americans fought to be treated as humans and won is a credit to them, but it has nothing to do with the breakdown of the family unit. You should be ashamed of your comment.
AIKAN74 (2 years ago)
talk that dumb, ill-informed, typical racist bullshit in the wrong circle and you will get not only a tongue lashing but a well needed ass kicking!!!!
Mgls (2 years ago)
that breakdown you mention was the socio-economic consequence of centuries of segregation. there may have been a social breakdown but at least now those people are FREE.
Christian Davis (2 years ago)
Tbh @Christoper Johnson "There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor nor popular, nor politic he must take it because conscience says it is right." There's another "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity" @Lee McLaurin How tf can you say that black people did better in slavery?? Black people were conquered and divided! You have different jobs.. One job is hard labor.. The other is interpersonal, cooking, house keeping... You don't know your history. DOn't go attacking a man you know nothing about... I'm black too.. But I'm not an nut job and I don''t agree with everybody say. There's so many factors involved...
Trevor T (2 years ago)
What motivated you to make such a stupid comment?! You're a total poop!
James (2 years ago)
I read her memoir last year. Absolutely amazing, I would totally recommend it. You get a lot more in scope detail you don't get from the interviews.
walter bishop (2 years ago)
My gosh.her voice is so amazing
Direito é Legal (2 years ago)
what a beautiful and inspiring lady! Thank you!
Bernadette Brown (2 years ago)
slateflash (2 years ago)
God even her speaking voice is SEXAAYYYY
colsome miah (3 years ago)
Nobody in my era has a voice tha comes from cavernous depths, rich, full Bless you Ms/ Norman
colsome miah (3 years ago)
full volume, voice rich and deep coming from somewhere below subterranian, Ms. Norman redefines operatic singers. Glorious presence and voicel
piano man (2 years ago)
Jessye Norman is simply incredible, we love and cherish her.
Nashanta Stanley (3 years ago)
Omg...I just love Ms. Norman!!
persona bell (3 years ago)
AZ Hybrid (3 years ago)
Oh Ms. Jessye Norman! Beautiful, Beautiful,Beautiful! I could listen to you speak and sing all day! Regal and simply majestic!
higharch (3 years ago)
So brilliant and clear about what she has been called to do.
MrTargenor (3 years ago)
arts education IS that important! education and even forming
Nové Deypalan (3 years ago)
Very well spoken and inspirational! Thank you Jessye.
MaestroFriedrich (3 years ago)
Every singer should hear this.
Soundwall Chester (3 years ago)
She is superb - and isn't it wonderful that she is advocating the arts in schools, stating that their worth is incalculable, ranking with core subjects.
maeshelll (3 years ago)
wow! It is so refreshing to witness such amazing people such as Jessye Norman.   Thank you for sharing.
Diosa !
Cali Lili (3 years ago)
She is SO #Beautiful and SO #Gifted .. What an #Inspiration  .... #AfricanAmericanWomen   #Beautiful   #Opera   #singers   #BlackWomen   #Artist  
dqlassit (4 years ago)
I'm shaking I'm so excited to watch this.  It is my wish to be as good as her...#wishfulthinking
Hildegerd Haugen (3 years ago)
Well, nobody will be since she was the true heir of Kirsten Flagstad. That doesn't mean the rest of us can't be good singers.
EFBensonFan (4 years ago)
I loved her stories... but WHAT'S with the accent???
aidualc nerak. (4 months ago)
EFBensonFan you claim so many credentials and yet your reasoning is so juvenile....hmmm...let people be who they are, you cannot make or define anyone
Trevor T (2 years ago)
+nohaylamujer Jessye is a Southerner--born and raised. She was brought up in an upper-middle class black southern household. She started learning German and French in her late teens. By the time she moved to West Germany, she was well versed in the German language. I think her dialect is quintessentially American for her ethnicity and upbringing. All Americans don't speak with one homogeneous accent. I think you're simply overthinking and trying to simply the way she speaks.
VantisDoroHall (3 years ago)
+nohaylamujer She has a beautiful way of speaking that often is found in the black community.  I think it gives blacks a particular sound when they sing.  Not all blacks use it, of course, but those who sing classical music often speak this way.  I am not sure it has much to do with speaking foreign languages, because other blacks who speak this way do not speak foreign languages, even if they sing in them.  It is so extraordinary to hear.
EFBensonFan (3 years ago)
+SC MC DONALD Thank you for your comments! I would certainly be very surprised to hear you speak this way --unless you were trying to impersonate a Duchess. I am from New York, my mother was from Newmarket, a small town near Cambridge in the UK, my father was from Boston but he lived in Manhattan almost all his life. In the early 80s I obtained an MA in Applied linguistics from UCLA. My concentration was the phonology of English. My thesis director was the late Peter Ladefoged. Nope. I don't agree with you, SC MC DONALD.
SC MC DONALD (3 years ago)
+nohaylamujer  I am an American who speaks in the same manner as Ms. Norman does!!!  Learning and speaking  Classical Languages(Latin, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and English in the matter it should be spoken)  results in perfect diction!!! Her pronunciation is perfect!!!! Thanks to my European Education and my very strict parents!! She does not have a foreign accent, she speaks English in the manner it should be spoken, WELL!!!!
Elisabeth K (4 years ago)
Why such a fake posture? Why such a fake accent? What she says, the way she says it, puts one to doubt, her superb voice against her psychological complexes. What a pity! I will never be able to listen to her again with the same emotions.
Karen King-ellis (8 months ago)
How ignorant your comments are. No one would ever knew how ignorant you are if you kept your mouth shut. Try it.
Just an Observation (2 years ago)
Even though this is a year old, I must reply for any current visitors reading your imbecile comment. The posture is not fake, nor is the accent. Opera singers are trained to hold their posture upright shoulders back head tall as f reaching for the sky, like ballet dancers and with many years of training & doing it becomes natural. Many black people speak in this way especially from certain areas of the South and as well as those who are educated and well travelled. You don't know this because you are not only a simple minded person but also narrow minded, tunnel visioned thing with only those stereotypical views of how a certain group of people speak. Stop watching the movies & TV shows because you are too simple minded & easy to believe the contrived. It never ceases to amaze me the level of idiocy, lack of sense, & outright ignorance of some people due to being stifled by their bigotry. It is just unfathomable to me.
cha53z (2 years ago)
Seriously how dumb are you... You do realize accents can be picked up right? I know it's been a year, but I couldn't forgive your stupidity. Jesus!
Thang Vuong (4 years ago)
Your comments are so narrow minded. This artist is relaying stories of her incredible life, her career, her contribution to the performing arts ,and the only thing you're focusing on is her speach pattern. Kind of silly.
Joao Aurelio (4 years ago)
Yes the radio, omg the story is just the same. The broadcast of live opera in our oriented classical music radio is still on sundays. So i would do the same, the washing dishes would take the time of the aria or the overture etc. Lol
Mapz Hmar Zate (4 years ago)
She looks classy, calm and a wise woman.I like her. PS:  Her earrings..wow!!Am a guy and don't care much about jewels and gems..but man..those are freaking charming. hahahaha
Anne Newman-Ross (4 years ago)
She is lovely and I love her voice!
RendezvouDoo (4 years ago)
Very Beautiful!
Coach Annette Brent (4 years ago)
I love her composure and warmth that she emits with ease. She is very candid. Must look for this book. Interesting life story.  
François Bessing (4 months ago)
YES. I'm going need to purchase her book.
astroboy royale (4 years ago)
great singer but legend? Please, her career lasted a few years. Her repertory was very limited. Let's reserve the word legend for real opera icons who could sing bel canto, Wagner, Puccini, Verdi etc. much more spectacularly.
Karen King-ellis (8 months ago)
Ignorant, racist person That's what you are. So sad.
The only singer who was really in the same tier to my mind was Callas. Norman is in a league of one with Strauss. Her Schubert is also stunning. Beyond the immaculate technique and sound, it's the sheer visceral connection to the listener. If you don't get it, the loss is yours. #feelsBadMan
Luis Vizcaino (3 years ago)
She is a Legend Herself , there are not too many singers able to sing to perfection that limited repertoire you mentioned she was able to perform oustandingly, few singers have been as good as she was in Wagner or Berlioz . Being able to sing bel canto, Mozart , Verdi does not necessarily means you are good in each style , who are you referring to? Callas, Caballe ? Because the rest .. Price , Sutherland Tebaldi were good in some roles and in others not
Luis Aquino (3 years ago)
+tklogan t maybe the legend is you?
panajody (3 years ago)
+Michael Pistorio You got it, kiddo!
Great experience. Thank you for sharing!!!! 
Vdn (4 years ago)
Jessye! If you want to study Russian, I will do it with great pleasure! Toropova Anna, Moscow, Russia. Write me a letter.. [email protected]
shagurl212 (4 years ago)
So elegant, so humble, so classy, and so well accomplished. It's amazing.
menukjau (4 years ago)
What a fantastic interview with a divine lady. Bravo Ms Norman!
jasmineskydancer (4 years ago)
Bravo Ms. Norman - I will look to purchase the book soon.  My Mom attended Lucy C. Laney HS in Augusta and knew of you.  She said everyone there who heard you sang in the school choir knew you were destined for greatness then :)
Margaret Moon (4 years ago)
I love this book. Thank you Ms. Norman.
cominroitover80 (4 years ago)
can she be my gramma i need a new gramma she look like a great gramma
Mapz Hmar Zate (4 years ago)
i think the same too.. :) So peaceful and wise.
kimberry2010 (4 years ago)
I love you, Jessye! Love the book.
Layla Hatchet (4 years ago)
Thank you so much for uploading! I can't wait until my book comes in the mail! And Miss Norman! She silenced that cellphone at 4:45 xD I adore this woman!

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