Under The Duvet Productions

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Kathleen Battle Is Returning to the Met After 22 Years

It may be the biggest unfiring in opera since Maria Callas’s New York comeback: Kathleen Battle, a prima donna whose dismissal by the Metropolitan Opera more than two decades ago made front-page news, will return to the Met next season to sing a recital of spirituals.
00 Kathleen Battle 1998 Duvet Copy #1

Soprano Kathleen Battle, 1998. Getty Images.

Ms. Battle was a Grammy-winning star soprano who had sung at the Met 224 times by 1994, when Joseph Volpe, then the company’s general manager, fired her from a production of Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment citing, with a bluntness unusual in classical music, her “unprofessional actions during rehearsals.” Stories quickly circulated about what was described at the time as divalike behavior and rudeness toward colleagues.
Arrangements for her return to the Met for a recital on November 13th came after she was courted by Peter Gelb, Mr. Volpe’s successor, who had worked with her in the past. “I think great artists should be on the stage of the Met,” Mr. Gelb said in an interview. “There aren’t enough of them.”
Her dismissal — and return — calls to mind past tempestuous battles between opera divas and impresarios. Callas, one of the great sopranos of the 20th century, was fired by the Met in 1958 after a contract dispute over which roles she would agree to sing. She, too, was rehired, in 1965, and returned to give two final Met performances of Tosca that are now considered legendary.
Ms. Battle, 67, will give a recital called Kathleen Battle: Underground Railroad — A Spiritual Journey, accompanied by Joel Martin on the piano and by a choir led by James Davis Jr., the director of Music Ministries and Fine Arts at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. Ms. Battle, who has performed versions of the program in Philadelphia, Detroit and Baltimore, said that she was excited to bring it to the Met.
“Spirituals have the power to uplift and to heal, and we certainly need that in today’s world,” she said in a statement. “This is a program which brings together my musical background and my cultural heritage, in the acoustical splendor of the Met.”
Mr. Gelb said that he had long been trying to get Ms. Battle, who has moved away from opera and largely has pursued a recital career, to return to the opera house. “When I first was appointed, I tried to persuade her to come back to the Met to sing a role in a Mozart opera,” he said. “But she couldn’t get her head around that.”
Then he thought about having her bring her Underground Railroad program, and in December Mr. Gelb and Ms. Battle visited the stage together, configured for a recital with the orchestra pit raised and acoustical screens put up, to see if she would be comfortable doing it.
“She sounded fantastic, and she said she’d do it,” he said.
Ms. Battle, who made her Met debut in 1977 as the Shepherd in Wagner’s Tannhäuser, was particularly lauded for her Mozart and Strauss roles. But she was also known for being temperamental: The year before her dismissal she withdrew from a Met production of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier after a dispute with the conductor, Christian Thielemann.
Mr. Volpe, who later recounted the episode of her firing in a chapter called “Battle Hymn” in his memoir, “The Toughest Show on Earth,” said in a telephone interview that he was pleased to hear of her pending return. “I’m delighted to see that she will be giving a recital at the Met,” he said, “and I send her my best wishes.” —The New York Times, April 4, 2016

Celebrity Photojournalist Lisa Pacino will be covering this Met event.

A retrospect of photographs.

01 Kathleen Battle Duvet Copy #5

Kathleen Battle Promo.

03 Kathleen Battle autograph Duvet Copy #4

Kathleen Battle Promo autographed.

Kathleen Battle Live Lincoln Ctr. PBS Kurt Mazur Duvet Copy #8 version 2 watermark

Kathleen Battle and Kurt Mazur Live from Lincoln Center, PBS Promo.

05 Kathleen Battle Magic Flute

06 Kathleen Battle and Cyrus Chestnut Promo.

Kathleen Battle and Cyrus Chestnut Promo.

07 Kathleen Battle, Paul Newman, Zubin Mehta and Yitzhak Perlman

Paul Newman, Kathleen Battle, Zubin Mehta, and Yitzhak Perlman.

Battle & Pavarotti MET Dec. 23, 1992

Kathleen Battle & Luciano Pavarotti, Metropolitan Opera, NY, December 23, 1992.

08 Kathleen Battle Promo Duvet Copy #6

Kathleen Battle Promo.

09 Kathleen Battle Wynton Marsalias Duvet Copy #2

Kathleen Battle and Wynton Marsalis Promo.

10 Kathleen Battle & Alicia Keys Duvet Copy #7

Kathleen Battle and Alicia Keys.

Celebrity Photojournalist Lisa Pacino will be covering this Met event.

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3 comments on “Kathleen Battle Is Returning to the Met After 22 Years

  1. Nancy Hubbard-Scott
    August 28, 2016

    Love to see our hometown Portsmouth girl back at the Met.


  2. Jim Hufferd
    August 31, 2016

    I love Kathleen Battle. 1st time I heard her sing was in the WNXT studios as we promoted some sort of community event or fund raiser and Chief Engineer Howie Potts told me to “put the cans on for this” (reference our stereo Earphones). In came a lovely young high school girl who blew the studio and our airwaves up with her beautiful voice. I’ve tried to keep track of the young lady ever since. Hope PBS or someone covers her return to the met


  3. Steve Perlowski
    September 27, 2016

    Finest voice I ever heard.


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