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March 17, 1983 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 1983-03-17

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ARTS

Page 6

Thursday, March 17, 1983

The Michigan Daily

Opera star makes area debut 1

By George Shepherd
S OPRANO KATHLEEN BATTLE,
has sung in the world's major opera
houses and at concerts with some of the
most famous singers. At age 34 she is
virtually an international star. With a
voice which Zubin Mehta described in
People magazine as "one of the
loveliest...I know of," she certainly
produces wonderful lyrical sounds. Yet
Battle, who makes her Ann Arbor debut
with the Chamber Orchestra this
Saturday at 8:30 p.m. in the Michigan
Theater, has two other assests which
have been central to her success: a
concise intelligence and a disarming,
spunky manner. A slender, striking,
black woman, Battle said in a recent
phone interview that their are many
factors which influence a singer's
career. "A lot of it is talent; discipline
and timing - what some might call
lucky breaks - are also important. But
a singer's personality is of crucial,
crucial importance."
Battle was born and raised in Por-
tsmouth, Ohio in a family she describes

as "musically talented without being
musicians." Battle went to high school
with Ann Arbor Chamber Orchestra's
music director Carl Daehler in Por-
tsmouth. She started voice lessons at 16
but says, "I didn't know that I wanted to
do classical music as a career until I
was well out of college with a master's
degree in music education."
Battle taught music in a Cincinnatti
elementary school for several years
and while in Cincinnatti, she was
discovered by Thomas Schippers. Shor-
tly afterwards she met James Levine,
the Metropolitan Opera's music direc-
tor. Levine has been an important fac-
tor in arranging Battle's frequent Met
appearances, including last year's role
as the maid in Cosi fan tutte a part she
played with charmingly unservile
liveliness. Battle refers to Levine, who
also accompanied her in her sold-out
Alice Tully Hall recital, as "a close
friend and my mentor."
Asked why many singers feel com-
pelled to train and to start careers in
Europe, Battle proudly replies, "I am
an American product, born and trained
in America. I'm an example of someone

who didn't need to go abroad to start a
career. And I'm unique in that way."
Battle is pleased now to have
achieved some stability in her
professional life. "I am fortunate to be
able to call the Met my operatic home
in America. Though I travel out to do
concerts in many other cities, I'm in
New York at least six months of the
year. Unlike many singers who are
constantly on the road and have even
sold their New York apartments, I don't
feel that I'm living out of a suitcase."
The opera star likes a wide variety of
music. "I grew up on the Motown sound
and the Temptations. And Stevie Won-
der is one of my favorite, favorite
musicians." She recently performed a
Duke Ellington song in a tribute to the
jazzman on public television.
Battle has no plans to sing pop music
as Placido Domingo recently did in his
"cross-over" album with John Denver.
"Denver just doesn't interest me ar-
tistically," she says with a giggle.
But Battle reacts more favorably to
other areas of a singer's art. Upon
hearing that Metropolitan Opera
baritone Sherrill Milnes (as a young

singer) performed on Schaefer Beer
commercials, she said, "I wasn't lucky
enough to do that. That's a great job."
Battle believes that, in America,
opera should be done only in English,
except for in the Metropolitan opera.
"At the Met,. which is a national1
treasure and national institution, we
must use the original language becavse
people come from all around the wox~d
to hear performances there.'
She enjoys concert and opera singing
equally, but approaches them differen-
tly. "With opera you have to be more
flexible and ready for anything. Wpo
knows if a prop is going to be thte
when it's supposed to be?" She fin is
recitals the most challenging, "Tpe
only variables are oneself, the piarnist,
and the flow between you and your
audience. You must concentrate bn
creating an evening of moods."
In Ann Arbor Battle will join tpe
Chamber Orchestra in Mozart's "
sultate, Jubilate" and in two arias fryn
Handel's opera Alcina. The orchestra
will play Haydn's "Hunt" symphony
no.73 and Lars Eric Larsson's "Diver-
timento." For information call 996-0046.

Books-
'The Winds of Change'
by Isaac Asimov
Doubleday, 288 p., $15.95
With 262 books to his credit, Isaac
Asimov has impressed the reading
public with the extent of his knowledge

ft.

I

Now we can
detect a breast
cancer smaller
than this dot.
At such an early stage,
your chances of living a
long, healthy life are ex-
cellent. But we need
your help. The only
proven way to detect a
cancer this small is with
a mammogram. A mam-
mogram is a low-radia-
tion x-ray of the breast
capable of detecting a
cancer long before a
lump can be felt. If
youre over 50. a mam-
mogram is recommend-
ed every year. If you're
between 40 and 50. or
have a family history of
breast cancer, consult
your doctor In addition.
of course, continue your
regular self-examina-
T ions d
This space contributed as a public service

in almost any field imaginable. His
latest volume, The Winds of Change,
takes him back to his roots, the science
fiction short story. Released in conjun-
ction with the best-selling Foundation's
Edge, it can hardly fail to sell well it-
self. Whether or not it deserves to sell
well is a moot point.
As usual, Asimov gives each story a
small prelude in which he tells the
reader of the circumstances surroun-
ding its creation. The author is as
genial as ever, but never has he been so
self effacing. He seems eager to point
out that his stories are not always ac-
cepted by publishers, that all of his
ideas don't work out and even that a
story is dated or flawed. Unfortunately
his modesty is quite fitting.
All of Asimov's well deserved laurels
aside, this collection is a dismaying
mish-mash of old fashioned and unim-
pressive tales. As a whole the stories
are characteristically well constructed
and told in Asimov's compact, enter-
taining style. But, if his delivery is as
precise as ever, the subject matter has
declined considerably.
Tucked between the larger pieces are
several shorter tales that are actually
little more than overblown bad jokes.
Asimov encourages the reader to groan
at the conclusions and I found myself
obliging, but probably not for the
reasons intended. The short pieces,
usually ending with a carefully crafted
pun, struck me as particularly labored
and unfunny. Like all other jokes, these
can only be heard and enjoyed only on-
ce, if at all. Among the accompanying
stories they seem surprisingly like
filler material.
Even at their best the longer stories
fare little better. Asimov writes in the
traditional format of the old pulp
magazines with which he began his
career. Stories are often centered
around a discovery, such as a new

machine, a new wonder drug or a
mysterious alien organism. Don't get
me wrong, I love the unleashed
imagination of the original golden age
stuff, but Asimov's attempts now seem
forced.
The central idea that the story is con-
structed around is all too frequently
unoriginal and unexciting. Even
Asimov cannot squeeze any Sense of
Wonder out of a retread. And as ex-
treme as this criticism may sound, it is
true.
"Fair Exchange?" is a good exam-
ple. In this uninspired tale the
protagonist travels back in time in or-
der to acquire the missing first play of
Gilbert and Sullivan. Once in the past
he tries to obtain it, almost succeds,
and guess what happens upon his return
to the present? Right. He finds that it
has been inalterably changed for the
worse. In fooling around with the past
he has ruined his own future. Somehow
he has altered the sequence of things so
that in the new present his wife has died
in a car accident. This entire concept
was handled in a much superior fashion
when Ray Bradbury wrote A Sound of
'Thunder more than 30 years ago._
In "It is Coming" we have a tale in
which a super-computer that controls
the world's economy is modified to
communicate with an approaching
alien spacecraft. The modifications
make it intelligent and it ends up
joining the Galatic Federation of Com-
puters. We humans can only marvel
that the aliens turned out to be com-
puters themselves, while we are
regulated, for the thousandth time, to
the status of "pets" of the superior
machine. The triumph of machine over
man never sounded so mundane.
In addition to these stories we have a
trendy piece called "The Last Shuttle",
which carries the last people off of ear-
th and into space. The reason for such a
stupendous migration is never made
clear. And in the Twilight Zone genre of
"it-was-all-a-government-test" we
have a tale of simulated moon flight
called "Ideas Die Hard." Asimoy ad-
mits that the last is dated and that
"science can race ahead of even a

I

Asim-
... writes more sci-fi
cultivated imagination." It didn't have
to go too fast in this case.
Hard-core Asimov fans should note,
however, that not all the stories in this
collection are as bland as these. Somne
are acceptable entertainment that will
doubtlessly be appreciated by the en-
thusiasts. "The Last Answer" stands as
an original and thought provoking look
at the possible nature of God, and
"Nothing for Nothing" provides an in-
teresting flight of rationalized fancy in
which aliens who arrive on earth during
the ice age encounter art for the first
time, on the walls of our ancest6r's
caves.
These last two stories indicate tiat
Asimov is still a capable writer' of
imaginative fiction and the low quality
of the rest hardly endangers the
author's position as one of the masters
of SF. What is disturbing is that a
master would allow such an unbalanded
collection to be published. Perhaps pf-
ter 262 books one more doesn't make
any difference.

-Chris Hoekifr
HURRY HURRY! Nme
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