Kathleen Battle is one of the greatest opera stars of all time. Everyone knows that her career was one of many ups and downs, the latter ultimately cost her years of her prime, but while she was at the summit of the opera world, there were few anywhere near her.
Battle, born August 13, 1948, had simply too many milestones to sift through, so here are some of the major highlights of a legendary career.
The soprano’s first ever performance was in Brahms’ “German Requiem.” The soprano auditioned for Thomas Schippers in Cincinnati, her selection ultimately launching her career in 1972. It was through Schippers that she met James Levine, who became one of her proponents throughout her career, defending her even when everyone else was turning against her. She also made 16 recordings with him, including her very first and very last.
Major House Debuts
Her first performance in an opera came in 1975 in the role of Rosina in “The Barber of Seville” at the Michigan Opera Theatre. Between 1976-1985, she debuted at such major companies as the New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Salzburg Festival, and Royal Opera House. She made her solo recital debut at Carnegie Hall in 1991.
The first recording that the opera diva made was in 1977 when she sang in Bach’s “Wedding Cantata,” BWV 202. Levine was in the pit, leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Her first opera recording was as Sophie in Massenet’s “Werther,” which also featured Regine Crespin and Alfredo Kraus. She also appeared in the “Fantasia 2000” and “House of Flying Daggers (2004)” soundtracks, her only cinematic collaborations.
Awards, Awards, Awards
Battle is among the most honored opera stars in history, winning five Grammy Awards throughout her career, a Laurence Olivier Award, an Emmy, and a whopping six honorary doctors from American Universities, including Amherst College, Seton Hall University, Xavier University, University of Cincinnati, Ohio University, Westminster Choir College.
A Return to the Met
The Met was both the place of her greatest successes and her ultimate downfall, the soprano’s expulsion from the company essentially turning her into persona non grata around the opera world. But in November 2016, the soprano got a chance at redemption as she was invited back to put on a recital of spirituals, 29 years after her debut as the Shepherd in “Tannhäuser” in 1977.