Jessye Norman was a diva whose voice could not be denied

(CNN)If arias are like lyrical prose poems, then each singer who performs one is like a poet who reads their work with a unique timbre and cadence. Whether she was singing the Habenero from Act 1 of Bizet’s “Carmen,” “Lieder” by Richard Strauss or performing in a Wagner opera, Jessye Norman’s voice was pure poetry. Let’s face it: poetry and opera are two art forms that tend to make people feel inadequate. Talk of poetic forms and conventions elicits as much anxiety, defensiveness and accusations of elitism as mentioning overtures, arias and recitatives. Having been shaped in the world of Jim Crow Georgia in the 1940s, Jessye Norman understood what it felt like to be excluded, which affected her approach …