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Not even Nellie Melba, who declared her Covent Garden dressing room off-limits even when she wasn't in England, nor Maria Callas, who was fired by the Met in 1958 because she didn't like one of their productions, nor any other opera star, male or female, who was famous for a fiery temperament and terrible tantrums caused their masters to be so harsh.

Never before had there been such a public chastisement.

Upset the underlings and embarrass the hand that feeds you and, however good you are, you are vulnerable.

The moment arrived when she was rehearsing the part of Marie, the young orphan adopted by a French regiment in Donizetti's opera. Battle reportedly turned up two-and-a-half hours late for a three-hour rehearsal that had already been rearranged to accommodate her.Battle demanded that the Met's general manager, Joseph Volpe, report to her immediately in her dressing room, but Volpe took his time - and then backed Thielemann.It took many hours of backstage diplomacy to persuade Ms Battle to return, and the Met endured her shenanigans only because the company had already sold all the tickets for a Japanese tour.In the beginning, Battle was much beloved because her singing was so fresh and clear and wholesome.They admired her artistry, and they loved her, too - but only in the beginning.

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