Roots: My Life, My Song
Cat. No. 88697642632
Star soprano Jessye Norman returns to her roots
with a long awaited new solo album
She is one of the world’s most famous sopranos, with one of music’s most beautiful voices. Sony Classical is releasing Jessye Norman’s long-awaited new solo album: Roots: My Life, My Song as a 2CD Set in June 2010, which was recorded live at Berlin’s Philharmonie.
What is special about her new album is that, with the exception of Bizet’s celebrated Habanera, the charismatic American soprano has chosen not to perform arias from the operatic roles that brought her untold triumphs from a very early age in opera houses ranging from La Scala, Milan, to London’s Covent Garden.
With Roots: My Life, My Song, Jessye Norman recalls her African-American origins. Alongside gospel songs and numbers from Africa she also performs jazz songs for the first time in her career. “I wanted to sing something that really inspired me. These are songs that have accompanied me all my life, songs by Thelonious Monk, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and others.” That is why Jessye Norman was also accompanied by a distinguished jazz quintet during her 2009 tour of Germany, when she performed at leading concert halls in Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne and Munich.
Released as a 2CD Set, the live recording of her acclaimed concert at Berlin’s Philharmonie reflect the life of one of the century’s foremost artists, a singer who has always seen herself as a committed cosmopolitan. After all, her parents were both active in the American civil rights movement. And in 2009 it was a great honour for her to sing on two occasions for the newly elected President Barack Obama.
With Roots: My Life, My Song, Jessye Norman returns to her roots and to her childhood. Her programme opens with African Drum Invocation, the magical drumbeats of which recall her West African forebears. With famous spirituals and traditional songs such as His Eye on the Sparrow and Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child, Jessye Norman turns back the clock to the time when she sang in a gospel choir in her native city of Atlanta, Georgia. In a personal declaration of her love for “great black music”, she goes beyond such famous jazz standards as Duke Ellington’s Heaven and Thelonious Monk’s Blue Monk. With Kurt Weill’s Mack the Knife and My Baby Just Cares For Me, she also pays tribute to three great jazz singers, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Lena Horne: “They were women of courage, daring and astonishing talent.”
These same qualities have been applied to Jessye Norman, too, of course, ever since she won the ARD Competition in 1968 and was launched on a major operatic career. But she also developed into an acclaimed lieder singer with a perfect command of German, French and Italian in addition to English. Her linguistic versatility is evident at many points in Roots: My Life, My Song, where her gifts as a song recitalist come to the fore in the chansons by Francis Poulenc, for example, which she performs in flawless French. It is no wonder, then, that audiences and critics alike acclaimed this engaging prima donna, who is completely lacking in a diva’s airs and graces.
These spectacular performances by a singer hailed by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung as “Saint Jessye” will be continued in summer 2010 with a European tour during which she will perform Roots: My Life, My Song at a number of prestigious jazz festivals, including Montreux in Switzerland and Gijon in Spain.