Shirley Verrett sang the music

Shirley Verrett

In his new book, Listen To This (published 25th November by Fourth Estate), Alex Ross, a passionate and persuasive writer about music, laments the description “classical music” and most of the terms used to replace it – art music, serious music, great music etc.

These definitions have put off so many people from listening to a wide range of music which should be everyone’s heritage and joy.

Alex Ross writes that in America, though I haven’t heard this before, jazz musicians talk about “the music” – now that is brilliant. we should all get used to breaking down some of these barriers.

I was reminded of this when I heard about the death last week of the great American mezzo soprano Shirley Verrett whom I first heard at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as a very sexy and vocally sensational Princess Eboli in Verdi’s opera Don Carlos. I have been thrilled by her voice ever since.

Now, if you are already put off because she was an opera singer, or a classical singer, then think again…..she illustrates perfectly Alex Ross’ point about “the music.”

I found this clip on Utube posted as a timely tribute to the great singer – have a listen and then see if you don’t agree that the three songs that she sings there have no reason to be segregated into separate categories….for me they are all riveting and sung by an artist who really did understand “the music”


  1. Also here:

    When the production originated in London, it was Patricia Routledge as Nettie. Verrett does a sterling job, I'd guess even the Kop would agree.

    We do seem to be losing a few of the greats at the moment, but their legacy is fantastic.

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