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This Friday (Nov 21), Metropolitan Opera Guild’s 80th Annual Luncheon Salutes Jessye Norman with “Brava, Jessye!” at NYC’s Waldorf-Astoria

This Friday, November 21, the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s 80th Annual Luncheon presents “Brava, Jessye!” to salute the legendary Jessye Norman, who recently wrote about her life in a memoir titled Stand Up Straight and Sing! A perennial highlight of the opera season, the Luncheon brings together a host of artists and other luminaries, along with opera fans and an array of New York’s society, business, and civic leaders, to honor the sumptuous-voiced soprano and her long and celebrated career. “Brava, Jessye!” will be highlighted by a trio of spoken tributes, from Toni Morrison, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer whose work Norman has unceasingly championed; from Grammy Award-winning dramatic soprano Christine Goerke, who was just named Musical America’s 2015 Vocalist of the Year; and from Norman’s friend and collaborator, trailblazing dancer-choreographer Bill T. Jones. The program will also feature a video retrospective of Norman’s own greatest performances, and musical tributes from Maria Callas Award-winning soprano Latonia Moore; Norman’s protégé and celebrated Mahler exponent Susan Platts; and Dolora Zajick, “a mezzo in a class by herself” (New York Times). Proceeds from the event will benefit the Guild’s education programs in New York City and throughout the country.

Richard J. Miller, Jr., the Guild’s President, comments:

“It’s a thrill to honor Jessye Norman at this year’s Annual Luncheon. She is one of the greatest singers ever to grace the stages of the great opera houses and recital halls of the world. From the  Liberty  Baptist Church in her home town of Augusta, Georgia, to the Metropolitan Opera in New  York City,  she has gone her own extraordinary way, giving us singing of extraordinary intensity, richness, and  expressivity. She has forged friendships and collaborations with people  in every corner of the arts,  many of whom – like Toni Morrison, Arthur Mitchell, Anna Deavere Smith, Bill T. Jones, and Rufus  Wainwright – will be joining us to celebrate this great artist.”

 One of the world’s most sought-after and highly regarded singers, Norman has been described by the New York Times as “one of those once-in-a-generation singers who is not simply following in the footsteps of others, but is staking out her own niche in the history of singing.” While best known for her roles in Die Walküre, Les Troyens and Ariadne auf Naxos, she is also a fervent advocate for contemporary music, and has premiered new works by Richard Danielpour, Laura Karpman, and Judith Weir. Norman made her Met debut in 1983, launching the company’s centennial season opposite Plácido Domingo, and has since returned to the house in a number of historic productions, headlining Schoenberg’s one-woman opera Erwartung (1989), which marked the company’s first monodrama, and giving a celebrated account of the title role in the Met’s premiere staging of The Makropulos Case (1996). Among her numerous and distinguished accolades are the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Kennedy Center Honor, two National Medals of the Arts, France’s Légion d’honneur, induction into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame, and honorary doctorates from more than 30 colleges, universities, and conservatories including Harvard, Juilliard, Howard University and Jesus College, Cambridge. Awarded the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal for her work in the fight against lupus, breast cancer, AIDS, and hunger, as well as the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal, Norman also serves as an Honorary Ambassador to the United Nations.

The Guild’s Annual Luncheon has been a highlight of every opera season for many decades, bringing together artists and their fans – many of them Guild members – to celebrate the leading exponents of the art form. Last year, “Welcome Home, Jimmy!” saluted music director James Levine on his triumphant return to the Met podium, with the help of “several generations of Met singers – enough to assemble some pretty formidable Verdi and Wagner casts, with enough star power left over to put on a Mozart opera or two” (New York Times). In 2012, “Star Power!” celebrated the Met’s National Council Auditions; in 2011 more than 600 guests came together to honor Marilyn Horne; and in 2010 the Guild paid tribute to Frederica von Stade. Other recent honorees have included such beloved artists as Kiri Te Kanawa, Plácido Domingo, and director Franco Zeffirelli. 

Among the myriad distinguished artists who are already slated to help celebrate Norman are Lucine Amara, Marco Armiliato, Martina Arroyo, David Bizic, Harolyn Blackwell, Brenda Boozer, Olga Borodina, Gwendolyn Bradley, Lawrence Brownlee, Paata Burchuladze, Claudia Catania, Steven Cole, Will Crutchfield, Tyne Daly, Mignon Dunn, Rosalind Elias, Riccardo Frizza, Marcello Giordani, Christine Goerke, Hei-Kyung Hong, Bill T. Jones, Isola Jones, Richard Leech, Isabel Leonard, Catherine Malfitano, Christopher Maltman, Mark Markham, Kurt Masur, Angela Meade, Fabrizio Melano, Myra Merritt, Arthur Mitchell, Meredith Monk, Latonia Moore, Maurizio Muraro, Mark Oswald, Eric Owens, Eve Queler, Hanna Schwarz, George Shirley, Anna Deavere Smith, Edward Villella, Ramón Vargas, Deborah Voigt, and Rufus Wainwright.

The Honorary Chairmen of the event are Susan S. Braddock, Thomas J. Hubbard and Ann Ziff, while the Chairmen are Mrs. Jeffrey C. Allen, Mrs. Schuyler G. Chapin, Edmée de M. Firth, Carole Bailey French, John Hargraves, Sandra S. Joys, Mrs. Kerryn King, Mr. and Mrs. Walter J. Laughery, Jr., Ellen and James S. Marcus, Louis Miano, Carol and Richard J. Miller, Jr., Christopher S. Moore, Celeste M. Sant’Angelo and Stephen Koval, Marc S. Solomon, Elizabeth S. Tunick, Mary and Winthrop Rutherfurd, Jr., and Langdon Van Norden, Jr. BNY Mellon Wealth Management is the Luncheon’s Corporate Sponsor, and the Lloyd E. Rigler–Lawrence E. Deutsch Foundation is the President’s Circle Sponsor.

For nearly 80 years, the Metropolitan Opera Guild has provided substantial support to the Met and has greatly enhanced the public’s appreciation of opera in general. Since its founding by the pioneering philanthropist Eleanor Robson Belmont in 1935, the Guild has contributed more than $245 million to the Met. The organization runs one of the country’s most innovative and far-reaching music education programs, which impacts hundreds of schools and communities worldwide. The Guild also publishes Opera News, the world’s largest-circulation magazine devoted to opera, and produces an annual series of major public programs, including the Opera News Awards. The Tenth Annual Opera News Awards will take place on April 19, 2015 at The Plaza in New York City.


“Brava, Jessye!”

Friday, November 21 at 12:15pm
Grand Ballroom, Waldorf-Astoria, NYC
For tickets, call 212-769-7009, or visit

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© 21C Media Group, November 2014

 Photo By: James Alexander

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