I learned today, with sadness, of the opera singer Jessye Norman’s passing at the age of 74. She was a vocalist who had the power to move mountains, and a deeply serious musician. Her loss is mourned all over the world.
During my research for Lucia’s War I have listened to many singers, but it’s safe to say the book is deeply influenced by Ms Norman’s sublime work, and Lucia’s later character by the aura she carries. There is an imperial streak to a dramatic soprano, and Jessye Norman always had it in her bearing. Strauss’s deceptively easy Last Songs, heard in my mind as rendered by Ms Norman, feature near the beginning of the book (don’t worry, it’s not an anachronism!)
But if any of her wonderful repertoire stands out for me, it must be her rendition of Iseult’s ecstatic, despairing Liebestod at the end of Tristan und Isolde (which resonates in the fictional universe as the story of an Irish princess who cannot live without her lover) which Lucia, with her temperament, could not but someday sing when at the zenith of her God-given talent.
Thank you for the music, Jessye Norman. The world is a little meaner for your departure. If you can, take part of a morning to have a listen to her works. She was wonderful.