Shirley Verrett (born May 31 1931) is an American operatic mezzo-soprano and soprano. Verrett enjoyed great fame from the late 1960s and was much admired for her radiant voice, beauty, and great versatility.
Born into an African-American family of devout Seventh-day Adventists in New Orleans, Louisiana, Verrett showed early musical abilities, but initially a singing career was frowned upon by her family. Later Verrett went on to study in Los Angeles, California and at the Juilliard School in New York.
She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1968, with Carmen, and at La Scala in 1969 in Samson and Dalila. Verrett's mezzo roles included Cassandra and Didon (Berlioz), Amneris, Eboli, Dalila, Azucena, Leonora in La Favorita, Gluck's Orpheus, and Rossini's Neocles (L'Assedio di Corinto).
Beginning in the late 1970s she began to tackle soprano roles, including Selika in L'Africaine, Lady Macbeth, Madame Lidoine in Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites, Tosca, Norma, Leonore (Fidelio), Iphigénie, Alceste, Médée (Cherubini), Desdemona, and Aida.
In 1990, Verrett sang Dido in Les Troyens at the inauguration of the Opera Bastille in Paris. In 1994, she made her Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater, playing Nettie Fowler.
In 1996, Shirley Verrett joined the faculty of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance as a Professor of Voice.