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Suggestions for your Sunday reading and concert-going

First, for my cyber-only readers who may have missed it in the Sunday paper, I should point out my

, who is heading to the area this week for concerts with the Baltimore Symphony and Morgan State Choir. Battle's long career has sure been fascinating. Hers is one of the most intrinsically and exquisitely beautiful voices of our age, surely one of the most beautiful of any age. For a while, though, she seemed to be bent on a baffling path of self-destruction. I hope that's all far, far behind her. Her performances here, devoted to spirituals, promise to be memorable.

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Now, for those of you looking for live vocal music today, consider rushing out for Baltimore Concert Opera's "A Flight of Verdi" (3 p.m. at the Engineers Club). It's something of a luxury to have Steven White conducting, and he brings his customary sensitivity to this program of three acts from Verdi operas. White has been a strong supporter of this organization from the start, and will likely be involved in the future, especially if money can be found to move up from piano-only accompaniment to orchestra. For this occasion, Jim Harp is at the keyboard, so that's practically a full orchestra right there.

I was especially impressed during Friday's performance by the presentation of Act 4 from "Otello." The music seemed a little more personal, in a way, heard in such an intimate setting. Thomas Booth filled out the title role with considerable vocal presence, with firmness of tehcnique to match intensity of phrasing. Lesley Ann Friend sounded a bit tentative at times, but nonetheless shaped Desdemona's lines effectively. Sarah Lambert provided vivid support as Emilia. I missed part of the first scene from Act 2 of "La Traviata," but heard enough to be persuaded of baritone Jonathan Carle's significant contribution in the role of Germont. He's got style, above all, always looking for ways to vary the tone color and find nuances in the text. It was nice to hear him sing not just "Di Provenza," but the usually omitted cabaletta. Karen Myers, as Violetta, could have used more vocal weight and expressive insight.

Act 3 from "Rigoletto" gave Carle another chance to shine in a title role; his singing had a good deal of warmth and insight. I wish Rolando Sanz, as the Duke, had

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done something more distinctive with "La donna e mobile." He plowed through the two verses at the same loud volume and fast tempo, a common enough shortcoming with many a tenor -- and conductor -- in opera houses today. How easy it would have been in a situation like this to add some individual and subtle flourishes. Still, Sanz' bright sound and vibrant phrasing did have appeal, especially in the Quartet. Myers, as Gilda, got the job done. Lambert was again in fine form as Maddalena. Matthew Curran revealed a sturdy bass in the role of Sparafucile.

If you're looking for instrumental music today, there's an interesting choice tonight. Members of the Baltimore Symphony will be the focus of two concerts that will take place at the same time (7:30 p.m.). The season-finale of the free Chamber Music by Candlelight series at Second Pres offers a violin sonata by Beethoven, a strong quartet by Bartok and a quintet for winds and strings by Prokofiev. Over at An die Musuk, cellist Dariusz Skoraczewski will perform selections from his new CD of solo pieces by Hindemith, Saariaho, Ligeti and more (the An die Musik Web site wasn't working when I tried it, so here's the phone number: 410-385-2638).

PHOTO OF REHEARSAL FOR 'A FLIGHT OF VERDI' COURTESY OF BALTIMORE CONCERT OPERA

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