Kathleen Battle Returns to the Metropolitan Opera 22 Years After Firing

By Ian Holubiak on Apr 07, 2016 04:56 PM EDT
Kathleen Battle Kathleen Battle has announced that she will return to the Metropolitan Opera at the behest of general manager Peter Gelb. She will perform a recital of spirituals to showcase how the company and the singer have buried the hatchet. (Photo : Vince Bucci/Getty Images for AMA)

Operatic soprano Kathleen Battle has announced she will return to the Metropolitan Opera some 22 years after her famous departure. Peter Gelb, the new general manager, says there's no ill-will towards the performer.

About 22 years ago, Ms. Battle walked off the Met Opera stage after an altercation with conductor Christian Thielemann over tempo change and canceled performances. In 1994, Joseph Volpe, then the Met's operating general manager, terminated her contract for Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment.

The reason? Her actions, as it's been quoted, "were profoundly detrimental to the artistic collaboration among all the cast members." Perhaps an earlier account, in November 1985, can help paint the picture further on Battle's departure from the company.

During Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro at the Met, Ms. Battle is said to have thrown the clothes of soprano Carol Vaness into the hallway because she desired her dressing room. During the 1993-94 season, workers at the San Francisco Opera created shirts that read: "I Survived the Battle."

But now, the past has been forgotten and the singer and the world-renowned opera company can finally put to bed the rumors and accusations lodged against both parties. Whatever the case may be, there is an opportunity to rebuild.

And with 22 years in the can -- and with a new production begging for her vocals -- Mr. Gelb has finally been able to persuade Ms. Battle to return to the Met stage.

In a statement, Gelb said:

"I don't believe there's any ill will towards her at all, but I wasn't here 20 years ago. I think everyone at the Met likes to hear great artists."

Now, Battle will make her Metropolitan premiere with the company once again, leading the orchestra and audience in a rendition of spirituals aimed to uplift and heal all the blood that has come between the company and the singer.

It should shape up to be a resounding performance. But until then, check out the pipes on Battle below.

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TagsKathleen Battle, Peter Gelb, Metropolitan Opera

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