I remember Kathleen Battle from my teenage years, glamorous, temperamental—every inch the opera diva. And there she was again, decades later, swanning onto the stage Saturday night at the Festival of the Arts at Mizner Park in a long black dress, swathed by a shimmery gold wrap, her hair swept up in an elegant twist, that face as striking as it was lovely. She started off her performance, accompanied by the Lynn Philharmonia under the direction of Constantine Kitsopoulos, singing “Summertime” from Porgy & Bess, followed by “Embraceable You.”
And by that second song, the crowd at the amphitheater was wrapped in a giant psychic binkie with their thumbs in their mouths.
Battle was once described as the “best lyric coloratura in the world” and has won several Grammy awards. Her opera work was characterized by a relatively contentious period in the 1980s at the Met, followed by years as a concert performer and recording artist. Her performance Saturday night was a gift of sheer beauty after a week of pain and anguish following the Parkland school shootings. Her first encore was ”Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and she dedicated her second, “This Little Light of Mine,” to the “children of Broward County and around the world,” followed by spirituals “Fix me, Jesus” and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”
For a few moments on that balmy South Florida night, the voice of an angel sang to all of us, and perhaps a little healing had begun.