Opera singer Shirley Verrett dies aged 79

image captionVerrett made her debut at the New York Met in 1968 as Bizet's Carmen

American soprano Shirley Verrett, one of the top opera singers of the 1970s and 1980s, has died at the age of 79.

Born in New Orleans, she was known for the intensity of her performances and for battling racial prejudice over the course of her four-decade career.

First known as Shirley Verrett-Carter, she made her professional debut in 1957 and went on to sing in New York, Paris, London, and San Francisco.

Fans at La Scala in Milan once dubbed her "the Black Callas".

Best known for singing the works of Verdi and Donizetti, Verrett also appeared on Broadway in a 1994 production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical Carousel.

Her autobiography, I Never Walked Alone, was published in 2003.

Verrett had been suffering from heart trouble prior to her death on Friday in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Verrett is survived by Lou LoMonaco, her husband of 47 years, and their adopted daughter.

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