Kathleen Battle Is Returning to the Met

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lennygoran
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Kathleen Battle Is Returning to the Met

Post by lennygoran » Mon Apr 04, 2016 8:01 pm

Not that it matters at this point to me.


You’re Unfired: Kathleen Battle Is Returning to the Met After 22 Years

By MICHAEL COOPER APRIL 4, 2016


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.

The concert, scheduled for Nov. 13, will provide a burst of old-school star power at a time when the Met has been struggling with declining attendance. Arrangements for her appearance came after Ms. Battle, 67, was courted by Peter Gelb, the company’s general manager. “I think great artists should be on the stage of the Met,” Mr. Gelb said in an interview. “There aren’t enough of them.”

Ms. Battle was a Grammy-winning soprano who had appeared with the Met 224 times in 1994, when Joseph Volpe, then general manager, fired her from a production of Donizetti’s “La Fille du Régiment” a week before opening night, citing, with a bluntness unusual in classical music, her “unprofessional actions during rehearsals.” Stories quickly circulated about what was described as divalike behavior and rudeness toward colleagues, including demands that other singers leave rehearsals when she was singing and not look at her mouth during duets.

Ms. Battle was said to arrive late to rehearsals, leave early or not to show up at all. Nor was “Fille” the first case of her being temperamental: The year before, she withdrew from a Met production of Strauss’s “Der Rosenkavalier” after clashing with the conductor. A few months before that, in a season-opening appearance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, she was said to have changed hotels several times and banned an assistant conductor from her rehearsals.

“I was not told by anyone at the Met about any unprofessional actions,” she said in a statement after being fired, adding, “All I can say is I am saddened by this decision.”

Her dismissal — and return — calls to mind past tempestuous clashes between opera divas and impresarios. Callas, one of the great sopranos of the 20th century, was fired by the Met in 1958 after a 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. (“Kathy Battle,” Mr. Volpe later recalled telling her manager when he terminated her contract, “is no Callas.”)
Photo
Kathleen Battle in a solo recital at Carnegie Hall in 2008. Credit Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times

She 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 turned away from staged opera after her firing and has since largely 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. “She sounded fantastic, and she said she’d do it,” he said.

Ms. Battle was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, in 1948, the daughter of a steelworker father and mother who volunteered at the family’s African Methodist Episcopal Church. An elementary school music teacher in Cincinnati before becoming a solo singer, she was championed by James Levine, who conducted many of her Met performances, including her company debut in 1977 as the Shepherd in Wagner’s “Tannhäuser.”

On Feb. 23, 1985, Handel’s 300th birthday, she appeared to great acclaim in a concert performance of his “Semele” at Carnegie Hall. (“It had to be,” Donal Henahan wrote in The New York Times, “the performance of her young and still-blossoming career.”) A smiling natural in Mozart and Strauss’s ingénue roles, her fresh and pure (if slender) tone and seemingly effortless agility translated beautifully to recording, and she eventually became one of Deutsche Grammophon’s biggest stars. But a reputation for causing backstage strife began to dog her: Colleagues at the San Francisco Opera were seen wearing T-shirts reading “I Survived the Battle” after one of her appearances.

Mr. Volpe, who recounted the episode of her firing in his memoir in a chapter called “Battle Hymn,” 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.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/05/arts/ ... ctionfront

John F
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Re: Kathleen Battle Is Returning to the Met

Post by John F » Tue Apr 05, 2016 2:11 am

For me, Kathleen Battle was never an important singer. She had and maybe still has a pretty but quite small voice but did not really act with it, and while she was pretty to look at on the stage she wasn't much of an actor. She owed much of her Met career to her fellow Ohioan James Levine, of whom she was a favorite - and it's a measure of how badly she was behaving that despite this, she got herself fired from the Met, and no other opera house hired her either.

I never missed her and indeed haven't thought about her in decades. And it's notable that while she will be singing in the Met auditorium, it won't be in collaboration with any Met artists: not the Met chorus or orchestra, not a Met staff pianist, and it won't be in a repertoire with which the Met has anything to do. I wonder why, then, Peter Gelb is so fixated on bringing her back at all costs, and how many will come to hear her.
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lennygoran
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Re: Kathleen Battle Is Returning to the Met

Post by lennygoran » Tue Apr 05, 2016 3:46 am

John F wrote: I wonder why, then, Peter Gelb is so fixated on bringing her back at all costs, and how many will come to hear her.
I wonder about a lot of things Gelb does-I always wanted him bounced-anyway I first saw Battle in 1979-the young Shepherd in Tannhauser-my notes mark her as good. Same thing for the Tannhauser in 1982. Then in Feb of 1982 she was my Despina-my notes say good to very good. In 1983 she got a very good to excellent from me as Susanna. She was my Zerbinetta in 1987 and got another VG to Excellent. Finally in Barber of Seville in 1988 another VG to E. BTW I won't be at this recital and didn't care for her antics when she appeared at the Met. Regards, Len

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Re: Kathleen Battle Is Returning to the Met

Post by maestrob » Tue Apr 05, 2016 10:36 am

I pretty much share the sentiments expressed above: she had the reputation of diva-like behavior long before she was dis-engaged by Levine----very sad, but her talent was pretty one-dimensional. Also, she was an Eb soprano, who tried to record an E natural in the studio with Previn on her Mozart album which simply didn't work.

Perhaps her ego has been tamed, but I wonder.......

Interestingly, after her firing, she recorded several albums with Levine accompanying her, and all went well.

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Re: Kathleen Battle Is Returning to the Met

Post by John F » Tue Apr 05, 2016 10:42 am

She wasn't "dis-engaged" by Levine but by Joseph Volpe, the Met's general manager. Levine remained silent about the whole affair, but I don't believe he has it in him to fire anyone, or even to criticize them publicly.
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Re: Kathleen Battle Is Returning to the Met

Post by maestrob » Tue Apr 05, 2016 10:51 am

John F wrote:She wasn't "dis-engaged" by Levine but by Joseph Volpe, the Met's general manager. Levine remained silent about the whole affair, but I don't believe he has it in him to fire anyone, or even to criticize them publicly.
What I know about the affair makes us both right. Battle huffed out of a rehearsal into her dressing room and demanded that Levine come to her for discussion. Volpe went to Levine with her demands, and Levine basically told Volpe that his authority was being undermined and that Battle should be terminated. So while it was Volpe who delivered the message, from what I heard it was Levine's decision.

This is all hearsay, of course, but it was common knowledge at the time. Thankfully, it's all water under the bridge now.

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Re: Kathleen Battle Is Returning to the Met

Post by John F » Tue Apr 05, 2016 12:55 pm

Not common knowledge to me. Battle was rehearsing (or not rehearsing) "La Fille du Régiment" at the time, which wasn't conducted by Levine but by Edoardo Müller. I suppose she could nonetheless have demanded to talk with Levine, who was then the Met's artistic director, and it could have happened as you say, but that's not what I heard at the time.
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Re: Kathleen Battle Is Returning to the Met

Post by Lance » Wed Apr 06, 2016 11:55 am

Regardless of her diva-like personality — there is no excuse to ever behave this way — I have always enjoyed Battle's voice and collected nearly all her recordings over the years, a voice that "fit" the microphone exceptionally well. I admire the fact that, at 67, she is willing to step on one of the great stages of the world and would hope her voice has retained 99% of its beauty. I truly enjoy programs of this nature, especially spirituals. I would enjoy being there for this program.
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Re: Kathleen Battle Is Returning to the Met

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Apr 06, 2016 10:27 pm

Come back Randall Wetmore!

Gimme Trump Threads over La Battle ones any day.

Dreadful woman, average voice, end of story.
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John F
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Re: Kathleen Battle Is Returning to the Met

Post by John F » Thu Apr 07, 2016 12:22 am

Chalkperson wrote:Come back Randall Wetmore!
Chalkie, I never thought I'd hear you say that. :lol:
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lennygoran
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Re: Kathleen Battle Is Returning to the Met

Post by lennygoran » Thu Apr 07, 2016 4:50 am

Hmmm, wonder if I should delete this whole thread I started or is that no longer possible! Regards, Len [fleeing] :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Re: Kathleen Battle Is Returning to the Met

Post by Chalkperson » Fri Apr 08, 2016 11:13 am

Sorry, once someone replies the Thread can't be deleted by anyone except Lance.
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