Magic Moments of Music - Spirituals in Concert

Author: sounding images

21 NOV 2021: When Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle, two of the world’s best sopranos, set foot in Carnegie Hall in 1990, the air was full of a sense of history.

  • Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle | Copyright: © sounding images

    Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle © sounding images

  • Jessye Norman | Copyright: © ullstein bild - ArenaPAL / BARDA Clive

    Jessye Norman © ullstein bild - ArenaPAL / BARDA Clive

The evening in March 1990 was full of expectations. Tensions were high. Would the two competing divas be able to sing with and not against each other? Even though spirituals have been established as a concert repertoire it is always a gamble to have two classically trained voices sing such sincere and unadorned melodies. Can the soul of music, created to give comfort and encouragement to people in oppression, be preserved by highly virtuosic voices for listeners on outrageously expensive opera seats?

The two divas take Carnegie Hall by storm: It is a musical celebration of charisma, virtuosity, liveliness and show. Jessye Norman dominates the stage with her authentic timber and a flamboyant African suit, Kathleen Battle hits even the finest high coloraturas. A magical unity is created by the two opposing artists taking on the repertoire they both started their musical paths on as adolescents.

Listening to the concert today inevitably means listening to it in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement. A rollback especially the two singers had not anticipated. Both of them completed their chapters of the civil rights movement when they brought normality to performances by non-Caucasian singers on opera stages.

“Spirituals in Concert” will make the viewers try to comprehend the concert in its music-historical and political dimension then and now. It is a performance that brought international estimation to this genuine African-American form of expression.

Duration 43 minutes
Production year 2021
Production Company ZDF/ARTE, sounding images
Distribution TV C Major Entertainment GmbH
Director Dag Freyer
Editor Christopher Janssen
Producer Claus Wischmann



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