I Never Walked Alone: The Autobiography of an American Singer / Edition 1

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Overview

An inspiring self-portrait of a world-renowned African American vocal artist
This is a fascinating account of a gifted woman's coming of age and rise to success at a time when black classical musicians faced barriers at every turn. Shirley Verrett possessed a talent and ambition so dazzling she could not be denied-and she became one of the most celebrated artists of her time. I Never Walked Alone draws the reader into the world of this graceful, fiery artist, dramatically telling the story of her childhood and her brilliant international career. The book is filled with behind-the-scenes tales of this diva's great performances, roles, and collaborations, offering insight into her stormy personal relationships as well as her private struggles and critical decisions. Featuring forewords and afterwords by such figures as Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Zubhin Mehta, and Claudio Abbado, this richly detailed book paints a vivid picture of a magnificent survivor and an indelible artist known around the world as the black Maria Callas.
Shirley Verrett (Ann Arbor, MI, and New York, NY) is currently Professor of Voice at the University of Michigan School of Music.
Christopher Brooks is a biographer and award-winning musicologist.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
* In this as-told-to presentation of a musical life. African American opera singer Verrett dryly relates details mainly of her impressive career. Readers unfamiliar with opera will appreciate the translations provided for all non-English phrases and titles, but they may not recognize all the names that Verrett drops as she lists her teachers, colleagues, and friends in the world of serious music. Now a professor at the University of Michigan, she includes insightful comments on interpreting some of her favorite roles, especially that of Norma in Bellini's masterpiece. Revelations about her private world are few and relatively shallow until she discusses her tormenting health problems toward the end of their opera career. The title refers to her last big role, that of Nettie Fowler in the 1994 Broadway revival of Carousel, who sings "You'll Never Walk Along." Succinct synopses of all the operas in which Verrett sang and a discography o Verrett performances close the book. Recommended for large music libraries for its value as a career chronicle. - Bonnie Jo Dopp, Univ. of Maryland Libs., College Park (Library Journal, May 15, 2003)

At the age of 5, Shirley Verrett's mother taught her the song "Jesus Loves Me." Her father, who conducted the choir in a Seventh-Day Adventist church in New Orleans, asked her, "Do you know you have a very lovely voice, little girl?" "I think," she writes, "it was at the exact moment I became a singer." But she did not resume singing until she was 24 years old, married and bored selling real estate in California. She then made up her mind that "I'M really a singer, and I'm ready to sing." In her fascinating and down-to-earth autobiography, "I Never Walked Along" (written with Christopher Brooks, who teaches African-American studies at Virginia Commonwealth University), Verrett, now 72 years old, reminisces, often with funny anecdotes, of her life before and during her career, which began when she won a place on the Arthur Godfrey talent show, followed by study at the Juilliard School. Her first onstage appearance was in Kurt Weill's "Lost in the Start," followed by four decades of singing in opera houses of the world, from the Metropolitan and San Francisco to La Scala, Covent Garden and the Paris Opera. Verrett focuses on singers she admires, for example Maria Callas: "She understood every word, every nuance of idea and emotion. She sang with conviction, as if she had written the opera herself." (The New York Times Book Review—Books in Brief, Sunday, September 7, 2003)

The New York Times
I Never Walked Alone (written with Christopher Brooks, who teaches African-American studies at Virginia Commonwealth University), Verrett, now 72 years old, reminisces, often with funny anecdotes, of her life before and during her career, which began when she won a place on the Arthur Godfrey talent show, followed by study at the Juilliard School. — Peggy Constantine
Publishers Weekly
Soprano Shirley Verrett rocketed to stardom (as a mezzo-soprano) in the early 1960s as one of the first African-Americans to break the color barrier in the recital hall and opera house. Verrett's early operatic triumphs came in Europe, but she established herself at the Metropolitan Opera in 1973 when she sang the roles of both Cassandra and Dido in Berlioz's five-hour-long Les Troyans and then followed that up by costarring with Beverly Sills in Sills's belated Met debut in Rossini's L'Assedio di Corinto (The Siege of Corinth). During her long career, Verrett's repertoire ranged from the vengeful gypsy Azucena in Verdi's Il Trovatore to the druid priestess in Bellini's Norma. She avoided most of the German operatic roles, although conductors tried to tempt her to sing Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. Verrett had a reputation for being a demanding artist, and in these memoirs she admits errors in judgment that contributed to well-publicized "feuds" with Marilyn Horne and fellow African-American Grace Bumbry. She recounts her health problems and sometimes difficult personal life with a forthrightness that perhaps stems from her Seventh Day Adventist upbringing. Opera lovers will enjoy Verrett's insights into the characters she played as well as her thoughts on singing; anyone looking for gossip about her fellow singers, however, will need to look elsewhere. 33 b&w photos Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this as-told-to presentation of a musical life, African American opera singer Verrett dryly relates details mainly of her impressive career. Readers unfamiliar with opera will appreciate the translations provided for all non-English phrases and titles, but they may not recognize all the names that Verrett drops as she lists her teachers, colleagues, and friends in the world of serious music. Now a professor at the University of Michigan, she includes insightful comments on interpreting some of her favorite roles, especially that of Norma in Bellini's masterpiece. Revelations about her private world are few and relatively shallow until she discusses her tormenting health problems toward the end of her opera career. The title refers to her last big role, that of Nettie Fowler in the 1994 Broadway revival of Carousel, who sings "You'll Never Walk Alone." Succinct synopses of all the operas in which Verrett sang and a discography of Verrett performances close the book. Recommended for large music libraries for its value as a career chronicle.-Bonnie Jo Dopp, Univ. of Maryland Libs., College Park Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471209911
  • Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 5/21/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.53 (h) x 1.22 (d)

Meet the Author

SHIRLEY VERRETT (soprano) has been acclaimed for her starring roles at 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, among others. She is the James Earl Jones Distinguished University Professor of Music at the University of Michigan.

CHRISTOPHER BROOKS, who collaborated with Ms. Verrett, is Associate Professor of African American studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. A biographer, he holds a doctorate in anthropology/ethnomusicology from the University of Texas at Austin.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Luciano Pavarotti.

Foreword by Plàcido Domingo.

Preface.

PART ONE. 

My Mother's Voice.

My Father's Dream.

Mrs. James Carter.

City of Dreams.

PART TWO.

Hurry Slowly.

Turning Points.

From Convent Garden to La Scala to the Met.

Transfigurations.

And Baby Makes Three.

PART THREE.

"Troy Meets Shirl".

An Actor's Life.

Somewhere In Between.

Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres

PART FOUR.

My Greatest Fan.

An End and a Beginning.

Opera Synopses.

Discography.

Acknowledgments.

Index.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2014

    Enjoyed this so much

    Such a great book for budding singers!

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