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S50 Ep9

The Magic of Spirituals

Premiere: 2/24/2023 | 00:00:30 | Closed Captioning Icon

Glimpse behind the curtain at opera legends Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman’s famed concert at Carnegie Hall on March 18, 1990, featuring performance clips and new interviews with opera star Angel Blue, Met Opera General Manager Peter Gelb and more.

Premiere: 2/24/2023
PBS   •   PBS App

About the Episode

Premieres Friday, February 24 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS App

Discover the behind-the-scenes story of Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle’s famed concert at Carnegie Hall on March 18, 1990, in Great Performances: The Magic of Spirituals, premiering Friday, February 24 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS App as part of Black History Month. With legendary African American contralto Marian Anderson in attendance, many wondered if the two singers would compete or join forces and sing together. Showcasing extended excerpts of Norman and Battle in performance, the documentary examines the preparation required and the historic concert’s enduring impact. New interviews and reminiscences are featured from the concert’s producer Peter Gelb (currently Met Opera General Manager), soprano Angel Blue, author and playwright Darryl Pinckney, arranger and composer Evelyn Simpson-Curenton, Harlem Gospel Singers’ founder Queen Esther Marrow, Fisk Jubilee Singers Musical Director Paul T. Kwami, and jazz and opera singer Jocelyn B. Smith.

Notable Talent:

  • Peter Gelb – Met Opera General Manager
  • Angel Blue – Operatic soprano
  • Darryl Pinckney – Author and playwright
  • Evelyn Simpson-Curenton – Arranger and composer
  • Queen Esther Marrow – Founder of Harlem Gospel Singers
  • Paul T. Kwami – Fisk Jubilee Singers Musical Director
  • Jocelyn B. Smith – Jazz and opera singer

Noteworthy Facts:

  • Peter Gelb originally envisioned the idea for the concert to spotlight both singers and pay homage to their African American roots.
  • Norman and Battle’s Spirituals concert at Carnegie Hall inspired opera singer Angel Blue to continue on her path to becoming a professional singer.

Throughout its 50-year history on PBS, Great Performances has provided an unparalleled showcase of the best in all genres of the performing arts, serving as America’s most prestigious and enduring broadcaster of cultural programming. Showcasing a diverse range of artists from around the world, the series has earned 67 Emmy Awards and six Peabody Awards. The Great Performances website hosts exclusive videos, interviews, photos, full episodes and more. The series is produced by The WNET Group. Great Performances is available for streaming concurrent with broadcast on and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO.


Directed by Dag Freyer and produced by Claus Wischmann, Great Performances: The Magic of Spirituals is produced by Sounding Images in cooperation with C Major Entertainment in co-production with ZDF and ARTE. Great Performances is produced by The WNET Group. For Great Performances, Stephanie Dawson is producer, Bill O’Donnell is series producer and David Horn is executive producer.


Funding for Great Performances: The Magic of Spirituals was provided by Leni and Peter May. Series funding for Great Performances is provided by The Joseph & Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Abra Prentice Foundation, LLC, Jody and John Arnhold, The Starr Foundation, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, the Thea Petschek Iervolino Foundation, Seton J. Melvin, the Estate of Worthington Mayo-Smith, the Jack Lawrence Trust, Ellen and James S. Marcus and Leni and Peter May.


From Carnegie Hall, two sensational divas got together to sing spirituals.

Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman.

♪♪ When I think of the spiritual, I think of hope.

Everyone could feel what a moment it was.

Enjoy how Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman made history through the magic of spirituals.

On Great Performances.


PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.