Some are marked by destiny. Who can doubt that if Kathleen Battle had not been gifted with such a phenomenal voice, she would have scratched - sorry, carved out a career as an actress. Think `Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' or Clytemnestra in the Oresteia or a one-woman band in the Bacchae. In each instance, I imagine, the circumstances would get the better of her - she would ad-lib to terrifying effect. Listen: can you not hear her screeching, "No prisoners! No prisoners!" as Lawrence-ette of Arabia? She would incarnadine the sand.
I had high expectations before I listened to this disc. They were largely fulfilled. The disappointment is K 165 - Exsultate Jubilate. Battle plays it safe. Fearless she ain't. She bridges its coloratura in the outer movements with ease but no tension or elation. If her voice could be likened to a Porsche Panamera Turbo S, the vehicle in question is being driven ever so carefully on the freeway at five clicks under the speed-limit. So what? Mathis, Ameling and Te Kanawa are preferable; they push the envelope and more
The soprano is back to form in the remainder of the survey. She's at her coquettish best in Basta Vincesti (K486s / 295a) and Un Moto di Giola (K 579). This is the Kathleen Battle of legend. Stone melts in her "L'amerò, sarò costante".
Sad to say, Battle fails to enliven these texts in contrast to many others. They resemble sound-bytes from Zerlina - ultimately bland but enjoyable all the same. All too often, where the text calls for characterisation and word-play, Battle defaults to lyricism. Perhaps I need to rethink the `parallel life' above . . . .
The recording is middling. I cannot hear any great distinction in the RPO. Interesting as it is, I won't return to this disc readily.