internationally renowned opera singer and recitalist, Shirley
Verrett has achieved recognition as one of the world's great
artist. Her orchestral appearances, films, concerts, and recordings
have garnered her accolades from The New York Times, Opera
Magazine, Courier Della Sera, Opernwelt, Chicago Times, Musical
America, Newsweek, and The Washington Post, among other international
rare combination of vocal gifts, unequaled presence, and elegant
style has made her a star at the world's great opera houses,
including the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, the Royal Opera
House, Covent Garden, the Bolshoi Opera, the Paris Opera,
the San Francisco Opera, the Vienna Staatsoper, and the Lyric
Opera of Chicago.
Verrett has appeared at the Metropolitan as both Norma and
Adalgisa in Bellini's Norma in the same season. Her other
roles included Tosca, Carmen, Eboli, Lady Macbeth, Amneris,
and Azucena. She has also appeared with that company in new
productions of La Favorita, L'Assedio di Corinto, Bluebeard's
Castle and Les Dialogues des Carmelites. Miss Verrett made
musical history when she sang both Cassandra and Dido at the
opening night of the Metropolitan Opera's new production of
Berlioz's Les Troyens. The New Yorker commented it was "
. . . a landmark in American opera history." That company
honored Shirley Verrett by presenting her with a twenty-fifth
anniversary watch two years before she reached that career
her long and distinguished career, Miss Verrett has been acclaimed
for her exceptional gifts as a singing actress, and has won
special praise for her unique and varied repertoire. Verrett's
vocal artistry comfortably embraces the great roles of Carmen,
Eboli, Amneris, Dalila, Azucena, and Orfeo, as well as some
of the most demanding roles for dramatic soprano such as Norma,
Lady Macbeth, Medea, Tosca, Aida, Desdemona, and Leonore in
Beethoven's Fidelio. Her mastery of this wide range of vocal
literature has earned her a unique place in operatic history.
is equally beloved at the Paris Opera, where she starred in
a series of operas staged especially for her, including Rossini's
Mose, Cherubini's Medee, Verdi's Macbeth, and Gluck's Iphigenie
en Tauride and Alceste. In 1990, she opened the Bastille Opera
in a widely hailed production of Les Troyens commemorating
the two hundredth anniversary of the French Revolution's Bastille
Teatro alla Scala, where she has been a favorite for many
years, Ms. Verrett opened the 1975 season appearing as Lady
Macbeth with Claudio Abbado, conductor and Giorgio Strehler,
metteur en scene. This was one of her greatest triumphs and
firmly established her as a leading dramatic soprano. Other
highlights of her Italian career include her memorable portrayal
of Queen Elizabeth I in Donizetti's Maria Stuarda at the Maggio
Musicale in Florence. More recently she appeared as the heroine
of Cherubini's Medee at the Teatro Comunale in Florence and
Tosca at the Arena di Verona.
performed regularly with the world's greatest orchestras and
conductors, including Igor Stravinsky, Josef Krips, Eugene
Ormandy, Thomas Schippers, Sir Georg Solti, Leopold Stokowski,
Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Fiedler, James Levine, Erich Leinsdorf,
Zubin Mehta, Claudio Abbado, Sir Colin Davis, Julius Rudel,
Bruno Bartolletti, Ricardo Chailly, Georges Pretre, Carlo
Maria Guilini, Lorin Maazel, Raymond Leppard, Bernard Haitink,
Nicola Rescigno, Rafael Kubelik, Herbert von Karajan, Carlo
Felice Cilario, Gian-Carlo Menotti, Sarah Caldwell, Eve Queler,
and Seiji Ozawa.
Verrett has also sung and recorded with other renowned singers
including Leontyne Price, Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti,
Montserrat Caballe, Joan Sutherland, Beverly Sills, James
McCracken, Jose Carreras, Jon Vickers, Alfredo Kraus, Marilyn
Horne, Grace Bumbry, George Shirley, Sherrill Milnes, and
Simon Estes among many others. In spite of a busy opera schedule,
Shirley Verrett has appeared in recitals in major musical
capitals of the world, including London (Covent Garden), New
York (Carnegie Hall), Paris (Theatre des Champs Elysees),
as well as significant tours throughout the United States
and Europe every season. She has remained committed to this
medium throughout her distinguished career. She has appeared
several times in the "Live from Lincoln Center"
series in both opera and recital.
New Orleans and raised in Southern California, Shirley Verrett
graduated from the Juilliard School of Music in New York.
She has won many honors and awards, among them the Marian
Anderson Award, the Achievement Award of the Women's Division
of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine; fellowships from
numerous foundations including Ford, John Hay Whitney, Martha
Baird Rockefeller; the Naumburg Award; and the Sullivan Award.
She has received honorary doctorates from Holy Cross College
in Worcester, Massachusetts and Northeastern University in
Boston. In 1970, she was decorated with the French Government's
highly coveted Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, and in 1984
was recognized with the more prestigious Commandeur des Arts
et des Lettres. She is a life member of the NAACP, Mu Phi
Epsilon, and the Century Club. She was recently named as a
board member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
always had a love for Broadway, Shirley Verrett performed
the role of Nettie Fowler in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel
at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center in New York
City during the 1994-95 season. This production was under
the direction of Nicholas Hytner and won five Tony Awards.
It also garnered Ms. Verrett a nomination for the Out of Critics
Circle Award. She was also an honoree of the Drama League.
In 1999 she appeared in an off-Broadway revival of the turn
of the century musical comedy, In Dahomey at the New Federal
Theatre in New York.
Verrett joined the faculty of the University of Michigan
of Music as Professor of Voice in September 1996. The following
excerpts are from a speech she gave to a recent
class of freshmen at the University of Michigan:
. Not all of you who come through these portals will
become major opera singers or renowned scholars. However,
every one of you should leave this university as an educated
person . . . I have now come to believe specializing too
early is counter-productive and can stunt your growth. I
heard many a voice professor talk about "the voice"
as if it were
detached from the physical body, the emotions, and especially
the mind. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
Your mind is your greatest asset. . . My mother, Elvira
always told my brothers, sister and me to "learn everything
you can because you'll never know when you will need it.
. . ."
You may face your own moral crisis where your personal
development or views may place you in conflict with those
your family, your friends, or "tradition." I can't
how to handle such a dilemma should it arise, however I
encourage you to be honest in your reflections. But don't
fear of rejection slow down your intellectual curiosity
An internationally acclaimed opera singer, Shirley Verrett
has participated in numerous charitable and humanitarian activities
throughout her career. As a life member of the NAACP, she
gave a benefit recital at Carnegie Hall and donated the proceeds
to the organization's general fund. In 1989, she and Placido
Domingo sang a major benefit concert for UNESCO in Paris to
aid refugee children in Latin America, Asia and Africa. In
this country, she has regularly sung benefit concerts to raise
funds for AIDS research.
has also served on two White House commissions to preserve
American Antiquity under the Carter and Reagan administrations.
She served on the National Endowment for the Arts and on the
board of the Harlem's Boy's Choir. In 1995, she was among
the "First Ladies of Song" a benefit to raise money
for an Eleanor Roosevelt statue. The event featured former
First Lady, and current New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
as the keynote speaker.
Verrett continues to be a model of a professional woman,
a stellar career with a commitment to public service. For
this and similar activities, Essence Magazine recognized
as an African American Woman of Distinction. She is listed
in the national and international Who's Who directories.
voice was featured in the1999 academy-award winning film,
La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful). She was also appointed
in 1999 as the James Earl Jones Distinguished Professor
the University of Michigan. Shirley Verrett's autobiography
is titled I Never Walked Alone (with Christopher
Ms. Verrett continues to offer vocal Master Classes throughout
the United States and Europe.