Jessye Norman talks to Alan Yentob
Stand Up Straight and Sing
Thursday 25 September 2014
Blenheim Palace: The OrangeryVenue
One of America’s most decorated artists Jessye Norman tells BBC creative director Alan Yentob how she travelled from childhood in the segregated south to performing great operatic roles on the world’s biggest stages. Norman, who is flying in from the US to be at the festival, is one of the world’s most admired singers, but her own life story has also turned her into an American icon. Raised in a tight-knit community centred around the church, she recalls the important role played by her parents and the strong women in her life. Norman describes how she came face-to-face with racism not only in childhood but also as an adult out and about in the world. She is particularly known for the Wagnerian repertoire and for playing the roles of Sieglinde, Ariadne, Alceste, and Leonore.
Norman has won five Grammy awards and received the United States’ highest award in the performing arts, the Kennedy Center Honor in 1997, making history as the youngest recipient in the honour’s 20-year existence. Norman has performed on many major occasions in both the US and Europe, including the opening of the Atlanta Olympic Games, the inaugurations of Presidents Reagan and Clinton, the 60th birthday of Queen Elizabeth, and the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution. In 2003, she founded the Jessye Norman School of the Arts for talented children who would otherwise not be able to avail themselves of arts training in her home city of Augusta, Georgia. President Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts in 2010.
Yentob is the creative director of the BBC and editor and presenter of the Imagine programme.He is a former controller of both BBC1 and BBC2.