LaVergne Monette, Famous New Orleans Opera Soprano, Dies at 85 | Music


LaVergne Ann Monette, a New Orleans-born soprano who has performed at opera houses in the United States and Europe and sang for Pope John Paul II at an outdoor mass at the University of New Orleans in 1987, died August 18 in New Orleans. She was 85 years old.

Monette, who said she grew up surrounded by music, won a national competition from the Metropolitan Opera in 1960. This led to engagements at the Met, New York City Opera, Baltimore Civic Opera, and venues in Europe, including the Finland. Her repertoire included “Carmen”, “Aida” and “Madama Butterfly”.

LaVergne Monette is shown in an undated photograph published in Gambit in 2020, when she won a Big Easy Lifetime Achievement award.

She has also sung with symphonies in Buffalo, New York; Baltimore; Duluth, Minnesota; Minneapolis; and Sarasota, Florida.

“I was just a quiet girl from New Orleans, and I did this whole trip,” Monette said in a 2021 interview with the Clarion Herald.

She started young, listening to classical music broadcasts on the radio and taking private voice lessons with Nelson Francis, the choirmaster at Xavier Preparatory School. She sang in traveling choirs and in school productions. At 19, she sings at the Municipal Auditorium.

Money in her house was tight, but Sister Elise Sisson helped Monette get a scholarship to study music at Xavier University. “I’ve been very lucky to win scholarships and opportunities that have helped me along the way,” Monette said in a 2020 interview for that year’s Big Easy Awards program.

She graduated from Xavier in 1958 and earned a master’s degree in music, with an emphasis on voice, from Indiana University in 1973.

In the 15 years between degrees, Monette’s career took off. After winning the Metropolitan Opera competition, she sang at the Met in “Manon Lescaut”, performed at Town Hall in New York and in concert at Lewisohn Stadium in the Bronx with bass-baritone William Warfield. Beverly Sills hired her as a lead singer at the New York City Opera; Monette performed in his production of “The Magic Flute”.

Among her teachers was legendary soprano Rosa Ponselle, who Monette says guided her through her performance as Mimi in “La Bohème.”

Back in her hometown in 1968, Monette, a black woman, broke the color barrier to sing the title role in the New Orleans Opera’s production of “Carmen” opposite bass-baritone Norman Treigle. , born in New Orleans.

La Vergne-Monette

LaVergne Monette appears in an undated photo released by the New Orleans Opera.

“For a shy person, I came to life in opera,” Monette told the Clarion Herald.

In the 1980s, Monette returned to New Orleans, where she taught at Xavier, Delgado Community College, and St. Rita Roman Catholic School. She performed at weddings, funerals, the 1984 World’s Fair and, in 1987, in front of an estimated 125,000 people at the lakeside mass that Pope John Paul II celebrated during his visit. in the city.

“It was such a privilege to sing for a now saint,” Monette told the Clarion Herald.

Until the COVID-19 pandemic ruled out in-person Sunday services, she sang in the choir at St. Augustine Catholic Church.

“Singing is a joy to realize that God has given me a gift, and I’m using it for His glory,” she said in the Clarion Herald interview.

Monette won the Lift Every Voice Legacy Award in 2017 from the National Opera Association. In 2020, she received the Big Easy Lifetime Achievement Award in Classical Music.

Reviewing her career in the Clarion Herald interview, Monette said, “I still struggle with myself because I didn’t ask the Lord what He wanted me to do. I just assumed cause I had the voice that [singing] was what I had to do.

Big Easy Awards 2020: LaVergne Monette Recognized for Lifetime Achievement in Classical Arts

Growing up in New Orleans, LaVergne Monette was surrounded by music.

Survivors include three sisters, Lenora Monette Carlson, Charlenia Monette and Gayle Moore Lavigne.

A mass will be said at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church, 1923 St. Philip St. Visitation will begin at 9 a.m.

The Charbonnet-Labat-Glapion Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.


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