KATHLEEN BATTLE Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


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Name: Kathleen Battle                                                                                 
Born: 13 August 1948                                                                                   
Kathleen Battle (b. August 13, 1948) is an American lyric soprano. She is                             
particularly known for her pure timbre, exceptional technique and musicianship,                       
and ability to connect with her audience.                                                             
Battle was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, the youngest of seven children. Her father                       
was a steelworker, and her mother was an active participant in the gospel music                       
of the family's African Methodist Episcopal church. It was through Battle's                           
musical experiences with her mother and at church that she first grew to love                         
Battle attended Portsmouth High School where her music teacher and mentor was                         
Charles Varney. In a Time magazine interview with reporter Michael Walsh, he                           
told of his wonder at first hearing the eight-year old Battle sing, describing                         
her as "this tiny little thing singing so beautifully." "I went to her later,"                         
Varney recalled, "and told her God had blessed her, and she must always sing."                         
Battle was a good student and was awarded a scholarship to the University of                           
Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where she studied voice with Franklin                         
Bens and also worked with Italo Tajo. She majored in music education rather                           
than performance in undergraduate school and went on to get a master's degree in                       
Music Education as well. In 1971 Battle embarked on a teaching career in                               
Cincinnati, even though she was encouraged to seek a vocal career. Battle took a                       
teaching position at a Cincinnati inner-city public school. She taught music to                       
students aged 10 through 12 and thus fulfilled her desire to give back to the                         
African-American community. While teaching 5th and 6th grade music, she studied                       
voice privately.                                                                                       
Battle's professional career was launched after an audition with Thomas                               
Schippers (then conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Battle was hired                       
and made her professional debut singing the soprano solos in Brahms' Ein                               
Deutsches Requiem at the 1972 Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy.                               
During the next several years, Battle would go on to sing in several more                             
orchestral concerts in New York, Los Angeles, and Cleveland. In 1974                                   
conductor James Levine selected Battle to sing the Mater Glorioso in Mahler's                         
Symphony No. 8 at the Cincinnati Symphony's May Festival. This was the beginning                       
of a close professional association between Battle and Levine that would last                         
for years. In 1979 Battle made her debut at the Glyndebourne Festival.                                 
Battle's success and fame grew in the 1980s. Her important opera roles at                             
Salzburg were Susanna, Zerlina, and Despina, three Mozart roles with which she                         
has been associated at many opera houses around the world. She has appeared at                         
most of the major opera houses of the world including San Francisco Opera,                             
Chicago Lyric Opera, Royal Opera, London, English National Opera, Grand Théâtre                     
de Genève, Vienna State Opera, and Deutsche Oper Berlin. In 1985, she was the                         
soprano soloist in Mozart's Coronation Mass at St. Peter's Cathedral at the                           
Vatican, in a performance conducted by Herbert von Karajan. She sang Handel's                         
Semele in a highly acclaimed performance in 1985 at Carnegie Hall and later                           
recorded the role. On January 1, 1987, Karajan invited Battle to sing a                               
waltz during Vienna's New Year's Day concert, the only time Karajan conducted                         
the internationally televised annual event and the first time a singer had been                       
engaged for such a contribution.                                                                       
Critical response to Battle's performances has rarely varied throughout the                           
ensuing years following her debut. Time magazine, among others, pronounced her "the                   
best lyric coloratura soprano in the world" in 1985.                                                   
In 1972, she made her professional debut singing the soprano solos in Brahms'                         
Ein Deutsches Requiem at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy                                 
In 1975, Battle went to New York when she was offered an understudy part in                           
Scott Joplin's opera Treemonisha.                                                                     
In 1976 she made her operatic debut at the Michigan Opera Theatre in as Rosina                         
in Rossini's Barber of Seville. That same year, she returned to New York in her                       
debut with the New York City Opera as Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro.                               
In 1978 (September 18, 1978), she made her debut under Levine's direction as the                       
shepherd in Wagner's Tannhauser.                                                                       
In 1983, she made her first appearance at Salzburg at an all-Mozart concert, and                       
she often returned in concert, recital and opera to the city.                                         
In 1991, She made her Carnegie Hall solo recital debut as part of the 100th                           
anniversary season celebrations at Carnegie Hall, for which she won a Grammy.                         
Kathleen Battle first gained the tag "difficult" in 1983 when working with Kiri                       
Te Kanawa in a production of Arabella. Some production staff advised her to                           
request restoring of parts of Zdenka (Kathleen Battle's part) that were cut. Te                       
Kanawa denied the requests, and their relationship subsequently deteriorated.                         
However, "Those who have found her occasionally difficult," noted Holland "usually                     
agree that her skirmishes are fought in the name of the music rather than                             
personal aggrandizement." Matthew A. Epstein, a noted music producer who has                           
worked with Ms. Battle in a production of Handel's Semele at Carnegie Hall, also                       
stated "She is not a pushover; she's a professional liberated woman."                                 
In 1994 Metropolitan Opera General Manager Joseph Volpe dismissed Battle for "unprofessional           
actions." At the time of the dismissal, The New York Times reported that a                             
number of people involved with the upcoming production of Donizetti's La Fille                         
du Régiment said that Battle had been "difficult" and "uncooperative even after                       
rehearsal schedules were changed to accommodate her demands, and that she had                         
upset other members of the cast." Volpe called Battle's conduct "profoundly                           
detrimental to the artistic collaboration among all the cast members" and                             
indicated that he had "canceled all offers that have been made for the future."                       
Battle was replaced by soprano Harolyn Blackwell for the remainder La Fille du                         
In a statement released by her management company, Columbia Artists, Miss Battle                       
said: "I was not told by anyone at the Met about any unprofessional actions. To                       
my knowledge, we were working out all of the artistic problems in the rehearsals,                     
and I don't know the reason behind this unexpected dismissal. All I can say is I                       
am saddened by this decision."                                                                         
In his 2006 memoirs, Volpe wrote that James Levine had advised against the                             
dismissal at the time and went on to write, "[I've] wondered whether it was                           
partly prompted by my desire to establish my authority at the Met. Perhaps it                         
Since the dismissal from the Met, Kathleen Battle has not appeared in opera                           
performances. However Kathleen Battle continues to appear in concerts and                             
recitals, as well as lending her voice to recordings and television appearances.                       
In 2006, she appeared in an All-Star Tribute to Stevie Wonder. On July 14,                             
2007, she debuted at the Aspen Music Festival performing an all Gershwin program                       
as part of a season benefit on the recommendation of David Zinman, Music                               
Director and respected conductor.