Soprano Kathleen Battle will return to Metropolitan Opera in 2016, 23 years after her ignominious exit during rehearsals for Der Rosenkavalier. Battle is joined by pianist Joel Martin and a choir directed by James Davis Jr of Abyssinian Baptist Church for a recital of spirituals titled Underground Railroad – A Spiritual Journey.
Branded as ‘unprofessional’ by former Met general manager Joseph Volpe, Battle has not performed at the world-famous opera house since. For her part, Battle at the time said, ‘I don’t know the reason behind this unexpected dismissal. All I can say is I am saddened by this decision.’
But where once there was sadness now there are only smiles. ‘I’m thrilled to bring Underground Railroad – A Spiritual Journey to New York for the first time,’ said the soprano. ‘Spirituals have the power to uplift and to heal, and we certainly need that in today’s world. This is a programme which brings together my musical background and my cultural heritage, in the acoustical splendour of the Met.’
‘Ever since I was appointed to the Met, I’ve been trying to convince Kathy to return to the opera house,’ added general manager Peter Gelb. ‘She is in great voice and this will be an important event for the Met and the public.’
The programme includes well-known gospel numbers like Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Farther Along, He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands and Lift Every Voice and Sing. She has previously performed Underground Railroad – A Spiritual Journey at Detroit Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, and at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center. Battle appears at the Met on 13 November.
During her critically successful original stint at the Met (she made her debut in 1977) Battle was known for her roles as Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Zdenka in Arabella and Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia. In total, she played 14 roles across 200-plus performances with the company.