TORONTO -- American opera singer Jessye Norman has won the $100,000 Glenn Gould Prize recognizing her lifetime contribution to the arts.

The prize organizers call the five-time Grammy Award winner and Kennedy Center Honor recipient "one of the great vocal artists of our time, or any time" and noted she overcame racial barriers to succeed.

Established in 1987, the Glenn Gould Prize is awarded in honour of the world-renowned Canadian piano virtuoso, who died in 1982 at age 50 after suffering a stroke.

The prize, which is handed out every other year, was also awarded to American composer Philip Glass, Canadian theatre icon Robert Lepage and Leonard Cohen in recent years.

Actor Viggo Mortensen was the chairman of this year's jury, which also included retired chief justice Beverley McLaughlin, composer Howard Shore, director Francois Girard, singer and actress Ute Lemper, painter Naeemeh Naeemaei, soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, musician Foday Musa Suso, and composer Ye Xiaogang. Tattoo artist and TV personality Kat Von D was originally named a member of the jury but withdrew from Thursday's deliberations for "personal reasons."

Norman will also get to choose a young artist or ensemble to receive the $15,000 City of Toronto Glenn Gould Protege Prize.