Todays’ featured artist is Kathleen Battle.
Wiki: Kathleen Deanna Battle (born August 13, 1948) is an African-American operatic light lyric-coloratura soprano known for her agile and light voice and her silvery, pure tone. Battle initially became known for her work within the concert repertoire through performances with major orchestras during the early and mid-1970s. She made her opera debut in 1975. Battle expanded her repertoire into lyric soprano and coloratura soprano roles during the 1980s and early 1990s. Although she no longer appears in operas, she remains active in concert and recital performances.
Early years and musical education
Battle was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, USA, 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. Battle attended Portsmouth High School where her music teacher and mentor was Charles P. (Phil) Varney. In a Time Magazine interview with music critic Michael Walsh, he recalled 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.” In that same interview, Walsh described Battle as “the best lyric coloratura in the world”.
Battle 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, taking a position at a Cincinnati inner-city public school. While teaching 5th and 6th grade music, she continued to study voice privately. She later studied singing with Daniel Ferro in New York.
Battle has continued to pursue a number of diverse projects including the works of composers who are not associated with traditional classical music, performing the works of Vangelis, Stevie Wonder, and George Gershwin.
In August 2000, she performed an all-Schubert program at Ravinia. In June 2001, she and frequent collaborator soprano Jessye Norman, performed Vangelis’ Mythodea at the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens, Greece. In July 2003 she performed at the Ravinia Chicago Symphony Orchestra Gala with Bobby McFerrin and Denyce Graves. In 2006 she and James Ingram sang the song They Won’t Go When I Go in a Tribute to Stevie Wonder and she began including Wonder’s music in her recitals. In July 2007 she debuted at the Aspen Music Festival performing an all-Gershwin program as part of a season benefit. In October 2007, at a fundraiser for the Keep a Child Alive Charity, Kathleen Battle and Alicia Keys performed the song Miss Sarajevo written by U2’s Bono.
On April 16, 2008, she sang an arrangement of The Lord’s Prayer for Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of his Papal State visit to the White House. This marks the second time she sang for a pope. (She first sang for Pope John Paul II in 1985 as soprano soloist in Mozart’s Coronation Mass.) Later that year, she performed “Superwoman” on the American Music Awards with Alicia Keys and Queen Latifah. Since that time she has appeared in the occasional piano-voice recital, including a recital of works by Schubert, Liszt, and Rachmaninoff in Costa Mesa, California accompanied by Olga Kern (February 2010) and a recital in Carmel, Indiana accompanied by Joel A. Martin (April 2013).