When legendary soprano Kathleen Battle returned to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera after a 22-year hiatus, she was joined by Andrew Darling, a graduate student at the John J. Cali School of Music.
Countertenor Darling was a member of the professionally auditioned 34-voice backup choir for the special concert performance of “Kathleen Battle: Underground Railroad – A Spiritual Journey” in November. The program featured two dozen spirituals, readings from the words of civil rights giants and special appearances by guests, including Wynton Marsalis and Cicely Tyson.
“Ms. Battle attended every single rehearsal and often prepared food for us,” Darling recalls. “We would spend hours on one musical phrase not to make it perfect, but to make it heartfelt.”
Darling sang a solo in the spiritual “Hold On,” which received so much applause that Ms. Battle asked him to sing it again. When he did, with even greater embellishment, he brought down the house.
“Ms. Battle is my idol. I always listen to her recordings to try to mimic her lovely tone,” Darling says. “So it was mind-blowing to appear with her on the grand stage of the Metropolitan Opera. I remember feeling overwhelmed with pride after I sang my solo.”