cover image I Never Walked Alone: The Autobiography of an American Singer

I Never Walked Alone: The Autobiography of an American Singer

Shirley Verrett, Author, Verrett, Author, Brooks, Author John Wiley & Sons $35 (336p) ISBN 978-0-471-20991-1

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