She had sung the Marseillaise in 1989 in France, draped in tricolor for the bicentenary of the Revolution. The legendary American singer Jessye Norman died on Monday, September 30 in New York, at 74 years old. She succumbed to sepsis following complications of a spinal injury in 2015.

"It is with deep sadness and sorrow that we announce the death of the international star of the opera Jessye Norman," said the family in a statement sent to AFP. "We are proud of her musical achievements and the inspiration she has given to audiences around the world will continue to be a source of joy," says the text. "We are also proud of the humanitarian causes she has championed, such as hunger, homelessness, youth development and arts and cultural education."

Born in the US state of Georgia, Jessye Norman made a name for herself by moving to Europe in the late 1960s, where she performed in the largest theaters.

The tribute of Toni Morrison

"The beauty and power, the singularity of Jessye Norman's voice, I do not remember anything like that," said 2014 Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, who died this summer, an evening of tribute to the singer. "I must say that sometimes when I hear your voice, it breaks my heart, but every time when I hear your voice, it heals my soul," Toni Morrison continued.

As a child, Jessye Norman learned "spirituals" from the black community of Augusta, where she grew up in the southeastern United States, and where her parents worked in the NAACP organization. for the rights of blacks. She wins a scholarship to Howard University, a Washington-based institution to accommodate segregated black students.

Engaged since 1968 - she was only 23 years old - at the Berlin Deutsche Oper, she started in France five years later, in Verdi's "Aïda". Invitations follow at the Aix-en-Provence festival ("Hippolyte et Aricie" by Rameau in 1983, "Ariane à Naxos" by Richard Strauss in 1985), the Opéra-Comique (1984) and the Châtelet (1983, and regularly since 2000).

Woman of convictions

She moved to Europe where with her dark and pulpy timbre, she established herself as one of the most recognized dramatic sopranos, especially for her performances of Wagner.

A woman of conviction, she founded the Jessye Norman School of the Arts in her hometown to support young, socially disadvantaged artists.

But she had been scarce in recent years, especially after the publication of her memoirs, "Stand Up Straight and Sing!" in 2014. She told in detail the women who had marked her, and the racism she had faced, child and adult.

With AFP