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Kathleen Battle Biography

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Kathleen Battle is an American soprano, born August 13, 1948, in Portsmouth, Ohio, the youngest of seven children. Awarded a scholarship to the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, she majored in music education rather than performance. She earned a master's degree and embarked in 1971 on a teaching career in Cincinnati. While teaching 5th and 6th grade music, she studied voice privately. After an audition with Thomas Schippers (then conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra), Battle was hired, despite her lack of experience, to perform at the 1972 Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy.

Her career in classical music and opera progressed in the 1980s. She has worked with many of the world's greatest and accomplished conductors including Herbert von Karajan, Ricardo Muti, Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, Claudio Abbado, Georg Solti, Carlo Maria Giulini, and Battle's fellow Ohioan James Levine, music director at New York's Metropolitan Opera. The black American lyric soprano has made many recordings and videos. On January 1, 1987, Karajan invited Battle to sing a waltz during Vienna's New Year's Day concert, the only time Karajan conducted the internationally televised annual event and the first time a singer had been engaged for such a contribution.

Battle portrayed opera ingenues and heroines, such as Pamina in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, and Adina in Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore.

Battle's repertoire also embraces sacred music, jazz, and spirituals. She sang the title song, "Lovers," for the Chinese action movie, House of Flying Daggers, and has done collaborative work with other artists: she is a guest on an album with trumpet virtuoso Wynton Marsalis and was soprano co-lead in Vangelis' project Mythodea. She is a five-time Grammy winner and also the recipient of six honorary doctorates from American universities. In 1999, Battle was inducted into the NAACP Image Hall of Fame.
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