What’s in a Legendary Opera Singer’s Collection?

Famed opera and concert singer, Jessye Norman. Photo courtesy of Doyle New York.

“If I were not able to separate the art from the artists, I think I would limit myself a great deal, and life wouldn’t be nearly as interesting.” – Jessye Norman

Georgia-born Jessye Norman, arguably one of the world’s greatest figures in classical music, first began singing in her living room at age four. She quickly developed a lifetime passion for music and the arts, and started her professional life as an opera singer in Berlin in December of 1969 at the age of 24.

In 1970, Norman performed her first show in the U.S. with the Pittsburgh Symphony. Three years later, she made her debut at the Hollywood Bowl with James Levine. Her operatic stage debut followed in 1982 with the Philadelphia Opera. Since, Norman has performed on the stages of leading opera houses around the world, and at major events including the Bicentennial of the French Revolution in Paris in 1989, the opening ceremony of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and one the Queen of England’s birthdays.

For 30 years, Norman found a tranquil retreat in her country home known as White Gates (a property formerly owned by Allen Funt, creator of television show Candid Camera). Set in the rolling hills of New York’s northern Westchester County, Norman adorned the home with storied art and objects that reflect the acclaimed singer’s international career. Norman created a mise-en-scene for musical preparations and for entertaining close friends and family. Now, the acclaimed singer is putting her treasured artworks, elegant furniture, decor, silver, books, jewelry, and music memorabilia from the landmark estate up for offer in Doyle New York’s Doyle at Home auction on March 29.

Ever wonder what a world-renowned opera singer might collect? Take a tour through the personal collection of Jessye Norman – an assemblage of objects as brilliant and illustrious as their owner’s career – with Doyle New York specialist Peter Costanzo.

Van der Straeten Gilt Metal Masterpieces

Left: Lot 219, Hammered gilt-metal sun pendant necklace by Van der Straeten;
Right: Lot 221, Paur of large gilt-metal cuff bangles by Van der Straeten,
Doyle New York (March 29)

“Here is a suite of gilt metal jewelry created for Miss Norman by French designer Hervé Van der Straeten. Van der Straeten has created runway jewelry and accessories for such fashion designers as Thierry Mugler, Alexander McQueen, and Christian Lacroix. The pieces he created for Miss Norman embody the large-scale, sculptural qualities that make Van der Straeten jewelry so sought-after by collectors.”

1939 W.E.B. Du Bois Letter

Lot 118, W.E.B. Du Bois typed, signed letter, 1939, Doyle New York (March 29)

“A 1939 typed letter signed by the important sociologist, civil rights activist, and editor W.E.B. Du Bois to the University Place Book Shop in New York regards the purchase of books on germane subjects, such as Racial Distinctions in American Law.”

Historical Music Manuscript

Lot 117, Large antiphonal leaf with historical initial, late 15th/early 16th century,
Doyle New York (March 29)

“An interesting musical offering is this very large late 15th/early 16th century manuscript antiphonal leaf, extracted from what must have been an extremely large volume. This leaf contains one beautifully historiated initial and is presented in a double-sided frame for viewing its entirety.”

Armando Amaya’s Bronzes

Left: Lot 103, “Mother and Child” by Armando Amaya, 1983; Right: Lot 104, “Mazahua” by Armando
Amaya, 1984, Doyle New York (March 29)

“Miss Norman’s collection offers two bronzes by Mexican sculptor Armando Amaya, who is known for his masterful depictions of the female form. Dating to the mid-1980s, the two works reflect indigenous organic forms, yet are rooted in European aesthetics.”

More Highlights from the Collection

Light & Bright Furnishings
Clockwise from left: Lot 132, Lot 146, Lot 133,
Doyle New York (March 29)

Dining with Elegance
Clockwise from left: Lot 154, Lot 131, Lot 123,
Doyle New York (March 29)

Vibrant Adornments Worn by a Star
Clockwise from left: Lot 199, Lot 218, Lot 211,
Doyle New York (March 29)

Want more? See the full collection of Jessye Norman’s rare artwork, furniture, decorative art, silver, books, jewelry, and memorabilia in Doyle New York’s Doyle at Home (March 29).