Metropolitan Opera Star Kathleen Battle to Perform Music Inspired by the Underground Railroad with the Toledo Symphony

Published Wednesday, February 21, 2018 10:00 am

Famed soprano, Emmy Award and five-time Grammy Award winner Kathleen Battle will join the Toledo Symphony Orchestra on Friday, March 16 at 7:30 p.m. for a one-night-only Spotlight event at the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle Theater.

Performed only in cities along the Underground Railroad,  Metropolitan Opera star and Ohio native Kathleen Battle, joined by the Clarence Smith Community Chorus and The Voices at BGSU, presents a program of stories and spirituals inspired by the extraordinary journey to freedom during times of slavery. This performance is part of the Toledo Symphony’s North Star Festival, a series of concerts and collaborations celebrating Toledo’s rich history as a safe haven along the Underground Railroad, a 19th century network that helped slaves escape to freedom. This North Star Festival highlights and commemorates Toledo’s local heritage and the musical contribution of Black Americans throughout history from the 1850s to 1960s.

Soprano Kathleen Battle's luminous voice has been called "...without qualification, one of the very few most beautiful in the world" by the The Washington Post. Her vocal talents have carried her to the heights of the classical music world, performing on stages in the world’s leading opera houses and major concert halls, however, her gifts as a singer extend far beyond the realm of classical music. Her work as a great interpreter of spirituals is documented on a joint recital with Jessye Norman, Spirituals in Concert (DG). Her pure emotional power in this music of joy and sorrow cuts through all cultural boundaries. As the Vienna Kurier stated, “Kathleen Battle sang so beautifully in the spiritual ‘Heaven is one beautiful place,’ she came pretty close to heaven.”

Kathleen Battle received the Laurence Olivier Award in London for her portrayal of Zerbinetta in Covent Garden’s debut of Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss. She has also received five Grammy Awards, including three for Best Classical Vocalist, and similarly distinguished herself as one of our generation’s finest interpreters of Mozart (Susanna, Despina, Pamina, and Zerlina), as well as the bel canto operas of Rossini (Il Barbiere di Siviglia) and Donizetti (L’Elisir d'Amore, Don Pasquale, La Fille du Regiment).

“This is just one more example of how we are reaching for the stars and bringing them back here to Toledo,” says the Toledo Symphony’s President & CEO, Zak Vassar. “In the past few months, we’ve performed with Renée Fleming, Audra McDonald, and Leslie Odom, Jr. Now, with Kathleen Battle’s arrival, there’s little doubt that the greatest performers in the world are coming to work with the Toledo Symphony.” Vassar was lucky enough to see Ms. Battle perform a similar concert of spirituals in December 2016 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. “It was electric,” he says, “Ms. Battle’s voice is pristine—a perfect mix of radiant high notes and an impressive lower register. It just fits this music so well. Our audiences are in for an unforgettable concert.”

Kathleen Battle Underground Railroad – A Spiritual Journey will take place Friday, March 16 at 7:30 the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle Theater. Tickets are available at or by calling the Toledo Symphony Box Office at 419-246-8000.

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The Toledo Symphony is a community-supported organization of professional musicians and teachers who deliver quality performance and music education for all.

Formed in 1943 as The Friends of Music and incorporated in 1951 as the Toledo Orchestra Association, Inc., the Toledo Symphony Orchestra (TSO) has grown from a core group of twenty-two part-time musicians to a regional orchestra that employs sixty-five professional musicians who consider the Toledo Symphony their primary employer, as well as numerous extra players annually as repertoire demands.

The Toledo Symphony reaches more than 260,000 individuals annually through performances and education programs. The series concerts (Classics, Pops, Chamber, Mozart & More, and Family Series) are the critical underpinning of the orchestra’s artistic mission and regularly draw people from 135 postal zip codes. Additionally, Music Under the Stars, a free summer band concert series, is held annually at the Toledo Zoo. Education programs, student performances, and community concerts are held in schools, neighborhood churches, performing arts centers, and community facilities throughout the region; many are offered at no charge or provided at a reduced fee to help expand participation.

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