The Washington Post

More history at Ford’s: Three divas on stage together for the first time

Oera greats Kathleen Battle, Jessye Norman and Denyce Graves at Ford's Theatre Lincoln Medal ceremony honoring Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew on Tuesday. (Robert Isacson)

Here’s an idea for a new tour: The Three Divas.

Kathleen Battle, Denyce Graves and Jessye Norman sang at Ford’s Theatre Tuesday night — the first time the three sopranos ever performed on the same stage.

Ford’s chairman Wayne Reynolds wanted something special to honor Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, receiving the theater’s Lincoln Medal. “I heard he loves opera,” Reynolds told us. “What could be greater than the three greatest African-American opera singers?”

With the VIP audience (Henry Kissinger, Bill Daley, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Eric Holder, Roy Blunt, Brent Scowcroft and J ames Wolfensohn) sitting on the historic stage, each of the singers performed something inspired by Abraham Lincoln. Understatement was not on the program.

Graves was first with an elegant “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Battle emerged next and began an a cappella version of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (finishing with a bold gesture to the box where Lincoln was slain), then slipped into a medley of “Give Me Jesus” and “Wade in the Water.” Norman brought the mini-concert home with “Amazing Grace” and “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands.” They emerged together for a standing ovation.

No backstage tantrums or rivalries? Not even close, Graves told us at dinner: “Sadly, we didn’t have anything to do together. I kept telling them, ‘Let’s do the Rosenkavalier trio.’”

Reynolds, for one, is ready to send the three on the road: “I think they’d be great together.”



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