Jessye Norman: Star power

RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF
Jessye Norman

Jessye Norman, the international opera legend from Augusta, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, 605 Reynolds St.

The concert, Jessye Norman and Friends, is a benefit for the Jessye Norman School of the Arts.

Ms. Norman spent time earlier in the week with entertainment reporter Steven Uhles. Here are some of his impressions:

It has been my professional pleasure to meet quite a few famous people. What’s remarkable about these moments shared is how, for the most part, ordinary these figures usually seem. It doesn’t matter if they are a musician or artist, actor or American president, it turns out that most people are just people, remarkable for their talent or career, but unremarkable in every other sense. They could be the guy in the grocery line, the woman in the next car waiting for a stoplight.

There have been two exceptions. One was James Brown and the other is opera legend Jessye Norman. They are stars.

Although her formidable talent has made her famous, Jessye Norman is a star for reasons more difficult to define than merely having a winning way with an aria. She’s polite and personable, exceedingly well-spoken and seeming stripped of affectation, and yet she demands attention. It is as though the correct combination of small things – the ramrod back and uplifted chin, the bright eyes that seek out others and the warm smile that welcomes them – add up to a sum greater than their individual parts. Ms. Norman is the first person noticed when entering a room, the figure people gravitate toward.

I am a musical admirer and, being something of a homer, proud of her Augusta roots. That certainly could contribute to the slight case of star-struck I get when she’s around. But I believe it’s more than that. I believe a very few people affect people in a specific, perhaps even chemical way. Jessye Norman is one of those people and it makes her a star.

See Friday's edition of The Augusta Chronicle for a profile of Ms. Norman, and more on the benefit concert.

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