Well, I can't believe I scooped Val Suan. I was sure he'd be posting at
HAPPY 50TH BIRTHDAY, MISS KATHLEEN BATTLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Now my "ode" to la Battle:
When I was metamorphising from redneck boy to OQ in the 1980's, Kathleen
Battle was "hot" in the music world. I remember I bought the LP
(remember those?) of her Mozart arias; me & my music friends listened to
it for hours. We didn't know about her bad reputation in the opera
world, and we probably wouldn't have cared---we were in love with her
voice. The 3 Kathleen Battle LPs I bought as I was first discovering
opera still remain my favorites: the Mozart album, the Christopher
Parkining album, and the Salzburg Recital. And then, in the midst of
Battle mania, our diva came to Austin in 1987!!!! You would have thought
it was the Beatles in 1964, we were so excited. The voice was
crystalline perfection, and the red off-the-shoulder hoop skirted gown
made a big impression (although being a redhead, I could never wear it).
I even went backstage & she was graciousness personified. Of course, my
bitchy countertenor friends told me she once made Kiri te Kanawa cry,
but I didn't care.
On my first trip to the MET in 1993, I saw her as Pamina in ZAUBERFLOTE.
People had warned me I wouldn't be able to hear her in that cavernous
house, but I heard her just fine. Also, say what you will about her but
la Battle has an imposing stage presence. Her "Ach ich fuhl's" moved me
much. I think Pamina is a very sympathetic role for her she should
perform more often.
Then Kathleen Battle came through Dallas in 1997, hair piled high up on
her head. She wasn't in stupendous voice at that concertand 10 years may
have taken their toll, but she brought the house down with
un-accompanied spirituals. Furthermore, everyone at the Meyerson knew
they were seeing an opera STAR. The most dramatic moment of the whole
concert came when her accompanist, during a bow with la Battle, stepped
on her long drooping shawl. I bet he's not working with her anymore!
So, for me, Kathleen Battle has been instrumental in my growth as an
opera lover. IMHO, she has or had one of the most purely beautiful
voices I have ever heard, and always perfect diction. If she ever writes
an autobigraphy it should be entitled "The Last Diva", because I think
that's what she is. Of couse, she also may be an illustration of how the
Diva may not have a place in today's world. But, as I said before, if
you've ever seen Kathleen Battle in concert or on stage, you know you're
seeing an OPERA STAR---she's not some frumpy hausfrau taking a night off
from the toddlers--she's dressed & coiffed to the T & usually gives her
all to her audiences, especially in the repertoire most sympathetic to
her, Mozart & sprituals. Mr. Volpe, why don't you mend fences with la
Battle for her birthday & welcome her back to the Metropolitan where she
So, Happy 50th, Miss Battle, and thanks for the memories!!!!!
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