Known, Kathleen Battle was an operatic soprano known for her distinctive vocal range and tone. She expanded her repertoire into lyric and coloratura soprano roles that earned her five Grammys and one Emmy.
Born in Portsmouth, Ohio, Battle was the youngest of seven children. Like many African American vocalists, she discovered her talent while singing with her church choir. Battle was awarded a scholarship and graduated from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She majored in music education and proceeded to a master’s degree in Music Education.
While working as a music teacher, Battle was engaged to sing as the soprano soloist in Brahms’ German Requiem at the 1972 Festival dei Due Mondi in Italy, marking the beginning of her professional singing career. Battle would go on to sing in several orchestral concerts in New York, Los Angeles and Cleveland.
In 1974, Kathleen Battle was selected to sing in Mahler‘s Symphony No. 8 at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s May Festival. In 1975, she made her professional operatic debut with the Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit.
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Throughout the 1980s, Battle performed in recitals, choral works and operas. Her career took her to performance venues around the world. During this period, she received three Grammy awards and was nominated for the Classical Album of the Year. In 1985, Time Magazine pronounced her “the best lyric coloratura soprano in the world.”
The 1990s and 2000s saw Battle’s projects that included concert programs, a CD devoted to spirituals, a recording of baroque music, complete operas and performances with jazz musicians – earning her two more Grammys and an Emmy.
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She later performed with Toni Morrison, Grover Washington, Al Jarreau, and Wynton Marsalis before adding pop music to her repertoire with the release of Janet Jackson’s album Janet, lending her vocals to the song “This Time.” Before the decade ended, Battle received the NAACP Image Award – Hall of Fame Award in 1999.
In recent years, Battle performed “Superwoman” on the American Music Awards with Alicia Keys and Queen Latifah. Then, after a 22-year absence from the Metropolitan Opera House, Battle performed a concert of spirituals at the Met in November 2016.
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