New York, Oct 1 (AP/UNB) — Jessye Norman, the renowned international opera star whose passionate soprano voice won her four Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honor, has died, according to family spokesperson Gwendolyn Quinn. She was 74.
A statement released to The Associated Press on Monday said Norman died at 7:54 a.m. EDT from septic shock and multi-organ failure secondary to complications of a spinal cord injury she suffered in 2015. She died at Mount Sinai St. Luke's Hospital in New York, and was surrounded by loved ones.
"We are so proud of Jessye's musical achievements and the inspiration that she provided to audiences around the world that will continue to be a source of joy. We are equally proud of her humanitarian endeavors addressing matters such as hunger, homelessness, youth development, and arts and culture education," the family statement read.
Funeral arrangements will be announced in the coming days.
Norman was a trailblazing performer, and one of the rare black singers to attain worldwide stardom in the opera world, performing at such revered houses like La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera, and singing title roles in works like "Carmen," ''Aida" and more. She sang the works of Wagner, but was not limited to opera or classical music, performing songs by Duke Ellington and others as well.
"I have always been drawn to things other people might consider unusual. I'm always taken by the text and beautiful melody. It's not important to me who has written it. It's just more reasonable to have an open mind about what beauty is," Norman said in a 2002 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. "It's important for classical musicians to stretch and think beyond the three B's (Bach, Beethoven and Brahms). They were wonderful composers, but they went to the great beyond a long time ago. There's lots of music that will live for a very long time."
In that same interview she profoundly said, "Pigeonholing is only interesting to pigeons."
Norman certainly knew no boundaries or limits. She broke barriers and had hoped her industry would see more faces like hers.
"It is a more diverse place, thank goodness," Norman said of the opera world in a 2004 interview with NPR, "I wish it were even more diverse than it is."
Norman was born on September 15, 1945 in Augusta, Georgia, in segregationist times. She grew up singing in church and around a musical family that included pianists and singers. She earned a scholarship to the historically black college Howard University in Washington, D.C., to study music, and later studied at the Peabody Conservatory and the University of Michigan.
Eventually she made her operatic debut in 1969 in Berlin, wowing audiences around the world on stages in Milan, London and New York thanks to her shining vocals, no matter the language. The New York Times described her voice as "a grand mansion of sound."
"It defines an extraordinary space. It has enormous dimensions, reaching backward and upward. It opens onto unexpected vistas. It contains sunlit rooms, narrow passageways, cavernous falls," the Times' Edward Rothstein wrote.
The Met Opera called Norman "one of the great sopranos of the past half-century" in a statement.
"Starting with her Met debut as Cassandra in Berlioz's Les Troyens on Opening Night of the Met's centennial 1983-84 season, Norman sang more than 80 performances with the company, dazzling audiences with her beautiful tone, extraordinary power, and musical sensitivity," the statement read.
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said: "Farewell to the beloved Jessye Norman, a woman of vision, adventure and joy. A glorious voice and beautiful soul has winged towards Heaven. Her legacy lives on in music and the children who greet art in her name each day." And Broadway legend Audra McDonald wrote on Twitter, "UGH! Nooooooo! This is awful. I was literally supposed to spend time with her next week. RIP most magnificent amazing brilliant Diva."
In 1997, at age 52, Norman became the youngest person ever to earn the Kennedy Center Honor in the organization's 20-year history at the time. She received her National Medal of Arts from former President Barack Obama and has earned honorary doctorates from a number of prestigious schools, including Juilliard, Harvard and Yale. She is a member of British Royal Academy of Music and Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Norman even has orchid named after her in France, and the country also made her a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters.
She's earned 15 Grammy nominations throughout her illustrious career, picking up her first at the 1985 show for best classical vocal soloist performance for "Ravel: Songs Of Maurice Ravel." She earned Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.
Norman also gave back, raising funds to help students attend school, championing the arts in schools and championing diversity.
"I look at symphony orchestras around this country and I want those orchestras to look more like the demographic they're meant to serve. I would like to see more African-Americans on the stage at the Metropolitan Opera here in New York. There are certainly some, but not nearly enough, and I come across so many singers who are terribly gifted and that would be an asset to these opera companies around our country. But we still have these people who are just a little bit hesitant, and perhaps not as openhearted ... as I'd like them to be," she said. "I look forward to the day when we do not think about color of skin when we're looking to have a person do a job, whatever that job is."
The Jessye Norman School of the Arts opened in 2003 in Augusta to provide a free fine arts education to disadvantaged children. The Augusta Chronicle reported that Norman was set to attend the Oct. 11 street-naming ceremony in her hometown on Eighth Street, where the school is located. It will be named Jessye Norman Boulevard.
In 1990, Augusta opened the Jessye Norman Amphitheater to honor the opera icon.
Norman released her memoir, "Stand Up Straight and Sing!," in 2004.
She is survived by two remaining siblings, James Norman and Elaine Sturkey.
New York, Sep 30 (AP/UNB) — The DreamWorks animated adventure "Abominable" topped the box office with $20.9 million in ticket sales over the weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday, while the Renee Zellweger-led Judy Garland tale "Judy" got off to a strong start.
"Abominable," the weekend's sole new wide release, is a co-production between Universal's DreamWorks and the Shanghai-based Pearl Studios. So the $75 million-film's performance when it opens Tuesday in China will be vital to its worldwide success.
The film, written and directed by Jill Culton, is about a Shanghai teenager (Chloe Bennet) who discovers a lost yeti on the roof of her apartment building. She and a pair of friends traverse China to return the creature, whom they name "Everest," home to the Himalayas. "Abominable" garnered positive reviews (80% on Rotten Tomatoes) and a warm reception from audiences (an A CinemaScore) eager for a family friendly option.
"Abominable" marks the seventh No. 1 film this year for Universal, or eight if you count "Downton Abbey," released by the studio's specialty label, Focus Features. "Downton," last week's top film, slid to second with $14.5 million. The big-screen encore for the British series has already grossed $107.1 million worldwide.
That gives Universal the most No.1 movies of any studio this year, passing Disney. Though Disney still commands an overwhelming market share of about 34%, Universal has had a strong year with a varied slate ("Us," ''Hobbs & Shaw," ''Yesterday"). The studio accounts for all three of the year's No.1-debuting original releases: "Abominable," ''Us" and "Good Boys."
"It's not going to be all superheroes all the time. That's not necessarily going to be everyone's cup of tea," said Jim Orr, distribution chief for Universal. "When we have films like 'Abominable,' 'Yesterday,' 'Good Boys,' 'Us,' we're bringing a lot of different people into the theaters and that's good for everyone. That's good for the entire industry."
It's been a good run for original films lately at the box office. The stripper drama "Hustlers," from STX Entertainment, continued to hold strong with $11.5 million in its third week, dropping just 32%. It's now made $80.6 million altogether. "Hustlers" potentially got a boost by having its star — Jennifer Lopez — announced this week as next year's Super Bowl halftime act, along with Shakira.
And one of the weekend's biggest successes was "Judy," which opened with $3.1 million on 461 screens. The film, directed by Rupert Goold, is about the final act of Judy Garland's life, when the "Wizard of Oz" star was plagued by drug addiction, health woes and financial troubles. The film's main draw is Zellweger's lauded performance as Garland, which has made her the best-actress Oscar front-runner.
Roadside Attractions rolled out "Judy" with a rare medium-sized platform release that the distributor has found success with before on films like 2012's "Mud" and this summer's "The Peanut Butter Falcon." The latter is a Mark Twain-inspired adventure starring Zack Gottsagen, who has Down syndrome, and Shia LaBeouf. This weekend, it became the year's top indie platform release with $18.1 million over eight weeks, passing A24's "The Farewell."
Howard Cohen, co-president and co-founder of Roadside, says the 16-year-old distributor has succeeded by seeking populist indies. ("Judy," for which the audience was almost 80% over the age of 35, will expand nationwide further next week.)
"It's a very challenging time in film distribution for indies and everyone but Disney, maybe," said Cohen. "We like movies that can draw an audience, that are crowd-pleasers. In a challenging environment, you have to give people a really strong reason to leave their house."
"The movies have to be properly released and promoted," he added. "But I think the audience is still there."
The two-and-half-month break from superheroes atop the box office is expected to end next weekend when Warner Bros.' "Joker" hits theaters, along with Fox Searchlight's "Lucy in the Sky" and Netflix's "Dolemite Is My Name."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included.
1. "Abominable," $20.9 million ($8.8 million international).
2. "Downton Abbey," $14.5 million ($10 million international).
3. "Hustlers," $11.5 million ($3 million international).
4. "It Chapter Two," $10.4 million ($11 million international).
5. "Ad Astra," $10.1 million ($18 million international).
6. "Rambo: Last Blood," $8.6 million ($9.5 million international).
7. "Judy," $3.1 million.
8. "Good Boys," $2 million ($1.5 million international).
9. "The Lion King," $1.6 million ($3.7 million international).
10. "Angel Has Fallen," $1.5 million ($1.5 million international).
Bangkok, Sep 30 (AP/UNB) — Their story gripped the world: determined divers racing against time and water to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped for more than two weeks in a flooded cave deep inside a northern Thai mountain.
The ordeal in late June and early July 2018 had barely ended when filmmakers began their own race to get the nail-biting drama onto cinema screens. The first of those projects will premiere this weekend, when director Tom Waller's "The Cave" shows at the Busan Film Festival in South Korea.
The film was shot over three months earlier this year and has been in post-production since then. The 45-year-old Thai-born, British-raised filmmaker said the epic tale of the Wild Boars football team was a story he simply had to tell.
The boys and their coach entered the Tham Luang cave complex after soccer practice and were quickly trapped inside by rising floodwater. Despite a massive search, the boys spent nine nights lost in the cave before they were spotted by an expert diver. It would take another eight days before they were all safe.
Waller was visiting his father in Ireland when he saw television news accounts of the drama.
"I thought this would be an amazing story to tell on screen," he said.
But putting the parts together after their dramatic rescue proved to be a challenge. Thailand's government, at the time led by a military junta, became very protective of the story, barring unauthorized access to the Wild Boars or their parents. Waller often feared his production might be shut down.
His good fortune was that the events at the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai province had multiple angles and interesting characters. Especially compelling were the stories of the rescuers, particularly the expert divers who rallied from around the world. He decided to make a film "about the volunteer spirit of the rescue."
Other people proposed telling the story from the point of view of the boys, and Netflix nailed down those rights in a deal brokered by the Thai government.
"I took the view that this was going to be a story about the people we didn't know about, about the cave divers who came all the way from across the planet," Waller said. "They literally dropped everything to go and help, and I just felt that that was more of an exciting story to tell, to find out how these boys were brought out and what they did to get them out."
Waller even had more than a dozen key rescue personnel play themselves.
Waller said they were natural actors, blending in almost seamlessly with the professionals around them, and helped by the accuracy of the settings and the production's close attention to detail.
"What you are really doing is asking them to remember what they did and to show us what they were doing and what they were feeling like at the time," he said. "That was really very emotional for some of them because it was absolutely real."
Waller said his film is likely to have a visceral effect on some viewers, evoking a measure of claustrophobia.
"It's a sort of immersive experience with the sound of the environment, you know, the fact that is very dark and murky, that the water is not clear," he said.
"In Hollywood films, when they do underwater scenes, everything is crystal clear. But in this film it's murky and I think that's the big difference. This film lends itself to being more of a realistic portrayal of what happened."
Some scenes were filmed on location at the entrance to the actual Tham Luang cave, but most of the action was shot elsewhere, Waller said.
"We filmed in real water caves that were flooded, all year-round," he said. "It is very authentic in terms of real caves, real flooded tunnels, real divers and real creepy-crawlies in there. So it was no mean feat trying to get a crew to go and film in these caves."
"The Cave" goes on general release in Thailand on Nov. 28.
Dhaka, Sept 30 (UNB)- Helen Mirren just added one more bullet point to the laundry list of reasons why we love her.
During L’Oréal's spring-summer 2020 ready-to-wear show at Paris Fashion Week, the 74-year-old actress decided to change things up a bit and run down the runway. Not only did the "Catherine the Great" star skip and prance, much to the audience's delight, she did so without her shoes, reports today.com.
Mirren posted a photo of the joyous moment on Instagram, writing, “literally taking off…”
"Stole the show," one fan commented, while another added, "YASSSS queen."
Opening up to Vogue backstage at the show, Mirren talked about the experience of aging while sharing her personal philosophy on the matter.
“It’s much better to age disgracefully!” she told the magazine. “Take it on the chin and roll with it. You die young or you get older. There is nothing in between! You may as well enjoy it.”
“My mother once said, ‘Never worry about getting older. I know the thought of you being 45 when you’re 25 is, ‘Oh my god! Who wants to be 45?’ But it’s amazing because when you get to be 45, you’ll realize it’s actually very cool and you don’t want to be 25 again,’’ she explained.
“And I have to say, she was absolutely right. With every age comes advantages and disadvantages. And you tend to find that you don’t want to go back. You want to be exactly where you are with everything you’ve experienced.”
Other celebrities who made their way down the runway included Camila Cabello, Geri Geri Halliwell, Andie MacDowell and Eva Longoria, who brought out her 15-month-old baby boy, Santiago, to share the spotlight with mom.
Moscow, Sep 28 (AP/UNB) — Mark Zakharov, a renowned Russian theater and film director whose productions were widely acclaimed and loved by several generations of Russians, has died. He was 85.
Zakharov died in Moscow on Saturday, according to the Lenkom Theatre, which he had led for more than four decades. The theater's chief administrator, Mark Varshaver, said Zakharov died of pneumonia.
Born in Moscow, Zakharov graduated from the capital's leading theater school in 1955 and worked as an actor for a decade before he became a stage director. He served as the Lenkom Theatre's director from 1973 until his death.
Many of Zakharov's theater productions become iconic. He also gained fame as a film director.
In a condolence letter, Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed Zakharov as a "colossal personality" and praised the late director's "remarkable talent, freedom and dignity."
Plans call for Zakharov to be buried Tuesday at Moscow's Novodevichy Cemetery.