Equipped with a high-lying mezzo-soprano instrument which could blow the doors off of most opera houses, Ms. Verrett was a formidable, exotic stage presence. The African-American singer also struck blows for equality on the world's opera stages alongside fellow divas Marian Anderson and Grace Bumbry.
Ms. Verrett was particularly noted for her interpretations of spitfire mezzo roles, including the title role in Bizet's Carmen. She was a compelling Lady Macbeth in Verdi's operatic verson of the Shakespeare play, a role that is considered one of the most difficult in the composer's catalogue.
Her most noted role, however, was of the beautiful, vain and ultimately destructive Princess Eboli in Verdi's Don Carlo. Ms. Verrett immortalized her performance on a 1970 Covent Garden recording of that opera, co-starring Placído Domingo and Montserrat Caballe. This recording, considered the greatest Don Carlo in the catalogue, did much for the reputation of Verdi's longest, darkest opera, and continues to thrill opera lovers around the world.
Ms. Verrett died on Friday. She passed away in her sleep at her home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In her memory, please watch (and crank up) the following BBC clip, which features the diva singing her signature piece: "O Don Fatale" from Act IV of Don Carlo.