Shirley Verrett (May 31, 1931 -- November 5, 2010) was an African-American operatic mezzo-soprano who successfully transitioned into soprano roles i.e. soprano sfogato. Verrett enjoyed great fame from the late 1960s through the 1990s, particularly well known for singing the works of Verdi and Donizetti. Born into an African-American family of devout Seventh-day Adventists in New Orleans, Louisiana, Verrett was raised in Los Angeles, California. She sang in church and showed early musical abilities, but initially a singing career was frowned upon by her family. Later Verrett went on to study with Anna Fitziu and with Marion Szekely Freschl at the Juilliard School in New York. In 1961 she won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. She appeared in the first concert ever televised from Lincoln Center in 1962, and also appeared that year in the first of the Leonard Bernstein Young People's Concerts ever televised from that venue, in what is now Avery Fisher Hall. She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1968, with Carmen, and at La Scala in 1969 in Samson and Dalila. Verrett's mezzo roles included Cassandra and Didon (Berlioz's Les Troyens)-including the Met premiere, when she sang both roles in the same performance, Giuseppe Verdi's Ulrica, Amneris, Eboli, Azucena, Saint-Saëns' Dalila, Donizetti's Elisabetta I in "Maria Stuarda", Leonora in La favorita, Gluck's Orpheus, and Rossini's Neocles (L'assedio di Corinto) and Sinaide in Moïse. Many of these roles were recorded, either professionally or privately. Beginning in the late 1970s she began to tackle soprano roles, including Selika in L'Africaine, Judith in Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle, Lady Macbeth Macbeth, Madame Lidoine in Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites (Met1977), Tosca, Norma ( from Boston 1976 till Messina 1989), Aida (Boston 1980 and 1989), Desdemona (Otello) (1981), Leonore (Fidelio) (Met 1983), Iphigénie (1984--85), Alceste (1985), Médée (Cherubini) (1986)...
Lyrics & English Translation
She was led to her destiny in chains!
With the child in my arm, I followed her weeping.
I tried, in vain, to reach her...
In vain the wretch tried to stop and bless me!
For, among terrible curses, prodding her with their weapons
they pushed her towards the stake, those cruel men!
Then, with broken accents she exclaimed: "Revenge!"
That word eternally reverberates in this heart.
I managed to kidnap the Count's child:
I dragged him hither...
the flames were ready.
He was crying his heart out,
my heart was torn, in shreds!...
Then all of a sudden, to the sick soul, like in a dream,
a vision of frightening phantoms rose!
The guards and the torture! My mother, deathly pale...
barefoot, half naked!...the cry, the well-known cry echoes....
"Revenge!"...I stretch my trembling hand...I hold
the victim... I reached for it, push it into the fire...
the delirium is over...the dreadful scene vanishes...
only the flame burning, and its victim is no more!
I then turn my eyes and I see just in front of me
the son of the wicked Count...
my own son I had killed!
I still feel
my hair raising at the thought of it!
A link to this wonderful artists personal website:
I send my kind and warm regards,