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.
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.
Los Angeles, Sep 28 (AP/UNB) — Metallica says its frontman James Hetfield has entered rehab, and the band is canceling its upcoming tour in Australia and New Zealand.
Three of the heavy metal band's members posted a statement on Twitter Friday announcing the decision and apologizing to fans. The statement by drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Rob Trujillo says anyone who purchased tickets for the remaining show dates will receive automatic refunds.
The band had been scheduled to play five Australian cities from Oct. 17-29, followed by four shows in New Zealand.
The statement says Hetfield has struggled with addiction for years and has re-entered a treatment program. The statement didn't elaborate, but the band's members said they appreciate fans' understanding and support of the 56-year-old Metallica co-founder.
New York, SEP 28 (AP/UNB) — Taylor Swift, Lizzo, Billie Eilish and BTS are set to perform on the iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour this holiday season.
IHeartMedia announced Friday that the 12-city tour kicks off Dec. 1 in Tampa, Florida. The lineup, which varies by city, also includes Lil Nas X, Sam Smith, Camila Cabello, Khalid, Halsey, Katy Perry and Jonas Brothers.
The tour will visit Inglewood, California; San Francisco; Philadelphia; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Chicago and Atlanta. The tour wraps Dec. 22 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The Dec. 13 show at New York's Madison Square Garden will livestream on CWTV.com, the CW app and iHeartRadio stations. It will be broadcast Dec. 19 on the CW Network.
Other performers include 5 Seconds of Summer, Normani, Charlie Puth, French Montana, Dan + Shay and Monsta X.
Tickets go on sale Oct. 11.
El Paso, Sep 27 (AP/UNB) — An Indian immigrant who lost a third of his weight during a 70-day hunger strike over the rejection of his asylum claim won temporary release Thursday after a year in U.S. detention.
Ajay Kumar, 33, bowed with his hands clasped together in a traditional Indian greeting as he walked away from a detainee processing center in El Paso, Texas, with a tracking device around his ankle — a condition of his release. He was accompanied by human rights activists, who had been galvanized by medical personnel force-feeding him. The painful procedure involves pumping liquid food into the stomach via a tube through his nose.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials agreed to a deal last week in which Kumar and another Indian national resumed eating on a promise that they would be released, according to their lawyers. The men began eating again Saturday and had been kept under medical observation.
Kumar said he felt "very good," even though he lost nearly 50 pounds (23 kilograms) during his hunger strike, dropping from 150 pounds (68 kilograms) at the start of his hunger strike to 107 pounds (48 kilograms). Kumar said he has regained about 10 pounds (5 kilograms) but still feels in pain.
"I got my freedom," Kumar said. "I've been waiting a long time for this."
Kumar and fellow Indian detainee Gurjant Singh began their hunger strike July 8 after rejection of their asylum claims and denial of bond. They had spent almost a year in an ICE detention facility in Otero, New Mexico, and hadn't been charged with a crime. They believe the judge did not consider the facts of their cases individually.
"This immigration judge said, 'All of these Indian asylum claims are incredulous. I don't believe them,'" said attorney Linda Corchado, who represents Kumar, in a press conference last week. "It is damning. You expect at least some level of weighing the facts."
Singh has not been released but his attorney, Jessica Miles, said she hopes it will be Friday.
Kumar told immigration officials he fled India because he feared beatings, torture and death at the hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janta Party. He said he was attacked twice by BJP members for his work promoting the opposition Indian National Lok Dal party, including a beating that had him bedridden for more than a month, according to a doctor's note included in his asylum application.
A few weeks into their hunger strike, Kumar and Singh were transferred from the Otero facility to the El Paso Detention Center, with a medical wing that has become a hub for force-feeding hunger strikers in ICE custody. At the time, a weak and gaunt Kumar told The Associated Press he would rather starve to death in custody than be deported back to India.
Days later, Kumar and Singh were forced to hydrate through IV drips . By mid-August, they were being force-fed. A recently filed court document shows Kumar missed 220 meals.
ICE declined to comment on their release, or to give an account of how many detainees are currently on hunger strike in Otero and El Paso.
According to court documents, an ICE doctor urged local immigration officials to release Kumar, citing his failing health and commitment to continuing the hunger strike. ICE granted his release two days later.
The agency is required to monitor Kumar and Singh's health due to a court order that admonished ICE for the detainees' substandard medical care.
U.S. District Court Judge Frank Montalvo reluctantly granted permission to force-feed — a practice rejected by global human rights groups and medical ethics guidelines — saying he had no other choice or the men would die.
"In this case, Respondent (Kumar) is facing too great a risk of organ failure, muscle atrophy, and death," Montalvo wrote in a Sept. 12th order authorizing force-feeding.
Montalvo's order also said ICE's duty is not just to "keep the Respondent (Kumar) alive" and that the agency should take hunger-strikers to an independent doctor before asking for a court order.
Kumar will live with a human rights advocate in Las Cruces, New Mexico while he regains weight and appeals his asylum case.
Their sponsor, Margaret Brown Vega, is a volunteer with Advocate Visitors with Immigration Detention, a group that helped Kumar secure a lawyer and pushed for his release. She said she wished ICE had released Kumar sooner, and said she was still holding her breath for Singh to be released.
"This is a decision that has always been at ICE's discretion," she said. "They could have decided to do this long ago. Why they waited this long — I don't know."