Mezzo-soprano opera legend Shirley Verrett passed away today, November 5, in Anne Arbor Michigan from heart related complications. She was 79 years old. In the clip below, Verrett sings the beautiful 'You'll Never Walk Alone' from the 1994 Broadway revival of CAROUSEL.
Shirley Verrett achieved great fame from the late 1960s through the 1990s and was much admired for her radiant voice, beauty, and great versatility. She was particularly well known for her singing in French and Italian opera, particularly works of Verdi and Donizetti.
In 1957, Verrett made her operatic debut in Britten's The Rape of Lucretia. In 1958, she made her New York City Opera debut as Irina in Kurt Weill's Lost in the Stars. In 1959, she made her European debut in Cologne, Germany in Nabokov's Rasputins Tod. In 1962, she received critical acclaim for her Carmen in Spoleto, and repeated the role at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1963, and at the NY City Opera in 1964. Verrett first appeared at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1966 as Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera.
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 Amneris, Eboli, Federica, Azucena, Saint-Saëns' Dalila , Donizetti's Leonora in La Favorita, Gluck's Orpheus, and Rossini's Neocles (L'Assedio di Corinto) and Sinais in Moses in Egypt. 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, Lady Macbeth, Madame Lidoine in Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites, Tosca, Norma, Leonore (Fidelio), Iphigénie, Alceste, Médée (Cherubini), Desdemona, and Aida. Her Tosca was televised by PBS on Live from the Met in December of 1978, just six days before Christmas.
In 1990, Verrett sang Dido in Les Troyens at the inauguration of the Opéra Bastille in Paris. In 1994, she made her Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater, playing Nettie Fowler.