Montserrat Caballé, Barcelona opera singer, dies at 85

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Montserrat Caballé, Barcelona opera singer, dies at 85

Post by lennygoran » Sat Oct 06, 2018 5:23 am

Never heard her live. Regards, Len :(

Montserrat Caballé, Barcelona opera singer, dies at 85

Opera singer Montserrat Caballé, whose duet with Freddie Mercury became the signature song of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, has died aged 85.

She had been suffering from health complaints for some time and was admitted to hospital in Barcelona last month, according to news agency Efe.

Her career spanned 50 years.

She had stints with the Basel Opera and Bremen Opera before her international breakthrough in 1965 in Lucrezia Borgia at Carnegie Hall in New York.

She went on to perform with the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera and Vienna State Opera, appearing opposite the likes of Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.

The song Barcelona was first released in 1987 and later became an anthem for the city's 1992 Olympics, the year after Mercury died. Caballé sang at the opening ceremony with Domingo and José Carreras.
Beauty and drama

Montserrat Caballé was born in Barcelona, and at the age of nine was accepted for training at the city's Conservatori Liceu.

She graduated in 1953, and went to Italy, where she sang some minor roles.

Her career advanced rapidly after a successful appearance as Mimi in La Bohème at the Swiss State Opera in Basel. In 1965 she made a triumphant debut in the United States, taking over the title role - at short notice - of Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia at Carnegie Hall.

Her performance brought widespread praise for the beauty of her voice and her dramatic interpretation, and established her as an international star.
Image copyright AFP / Getty Images
Image caption Caballé performing in Vienna in 1979

The same year she appeared at Glyndebourne in Der Rosenkavalier and The Marriage of Figaro, but she waited another seven years for her Covent Garden debut - as Violetta in La Traviata.

A short but imposing figure, Caballé endeared herself to audiences around the world with her irrepressible personality. Her fans called her La Superba - the superb one.

Her career was dogged by ill health. In 1985 she spent three months in hospital with a brain tumour, and had treatment for heart trouble in 1993.

In 2015, she was given a six-month suspended prison sentence for tax fraud.

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Re: Montserrat Caballé, Barcelona opera singer, dies at 85

Post by Rach3 » Sat Oct 06, 2018 9:51 am

Montserrat Caballe’s 1971 debut in the Netherlands broadcast. I’ll defer to opera experts here : ... -nederland

Donizetti, Gaetano
Roberto Devereux ; Ouverture

Donizetti, Gaetano
Roberto Devereux ; Akte III - recitatief + aria, "E Sara in questi... Vivi ingrato"

Rossini, Gioachino
Tancredi ; Akte I - recitatief + aria, "Oh patria... Di tanti palpiti"

Bellini, Vincenzo
Norma ; Akte I - ouverture + koor, "Norma Viene" + recitatief + cavatina, "Casta diva" + cabaletta, "Ah bello a me ritorno"

Verdi, Giuseppe
Aroldo ; “Ah! Dagli scanni eterei “

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Re: Montserrat Caballé, Barcelona opera singer, dies at 85

Post by maestrob » Sat Oct 06, 2018 11:46 am

Caballe was one of the greats. She even recorded an album of songs with her daughter, who had a pleasant voice. Caballe often partnered with Marilyn Horne on stage, and I remember a recital of bel canto material that simply blew me away with such great singing from both divas.

A great loss, she sang not only bel canto but Verdi roles such as Aida (not her best moment). Plagued by ill health and forced to cancel quite often, Caballe gave all to her art.

She will be missed.

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Re: Montserrat Caballé, Barcelona opera singer, dies at 85

Post by Lance » Sat Oct 06, 2018 1:41 pm

Wow ... what a loss. My most favourite soprano. Wondrous and gorgeous voice, ii]pianissimi[/i] that were the best I have heard ... such control. How much did I love her? I have over 160 entries in my CD catalogue with her participation, complete operas, recitals, live material. 85, however, is a good, long age for someone who had all her physical problems. May she rest in peace and her memory linger long.
Lance G. Hill

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]


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Re: Montserrat Caballé, Barcelona opera singer, dies at 85

Post by lennygoran » Sun Oct 07, 2018 5:15 am

Lance wrote:
Sat Oct 06, 2018 1:41 pm
Wow ... what a loss.
Here's the NY Times obit. Regards, Len

Montserrat Caballé, Revered Spanish Prima Donna, Dies at 85

These audios appear in the article if you can reach it. Regards, Len

1. Early Caballé's divine pianissimo upper register

2. Montserrat Caballé sings "Com'é bello" from Lucrezia Borgia at Carnegie Hall

3. "The Golden Boy," from "Barcelona."

By Margalit Fox

Oct. 6, 2018

Montserrat Caballé, the Spanish soprano widely counted among the last of the old-time prima donnas for the transcendent purity of her voice, the sweeping breadth of her repertory and the delirious adulation of her fans, died on Saturday in Barcelona. She was 85.

Her death was confirmed by Sant Pau Hospital in Barcelona, Spain, where she was admitted last month, and by the city’s Gran Teatre del Liceu.

One of the foremost opera singers of the second half of the 20th century, Ms. Caballé was an enduring, vibrant international presence, appearing at the Metropolitan Opera, with which she sang 98 times; Covent Garden; La Scala and elsewhere, as well as at the opening ceremony of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.

She was also widely heard in recital, for many years making an annual appearance at Carnegie Hall.
Montserrat Caballe Encore at her Carnegie Hall 1978 RecitalCreditCreditVideo by OperaMyWorld

Ms. Caballé was, critics concurred, one of the sublime representatives of a type of diva most often associated with a bygone, golden era: smolderingly regal, seemingly inscrutable, a larger-than-life presence accorded godlike status by her reverential public.

“La Superba,” the world press called her, elevating her to membership in an international soprano triumvirate that also included “La Divina” (Maria Callas) and “La Stupenda” (Joan Sutherland).

Ms. Caballé’s exalted status was won by virtue of the vast number of roles at her command (more than 100, an almost unheard-of tally, from fleet, silvery Mozart to weighty Richard Strauss and weightier Wagner); the length of her performing life (she sang publicly until she was well into her 60s, more than a decade after a singer’s usual retirement age); and the lather of adoration into which her fans routinely whipped themselves.

Her recitals were often interrupted mid-song — after she had tossed off an especially intricate passage or scaled a particularly daring height — with wild cheering, foot-stomping and cries of “Brava!” On one occasion, at Avery Fisher Hall in New York in 1983, a fistfight nearly erupted in the audience, with adulatory screamers on one side and pugilistic purists, demanding silence, on the other.

But above all — and this is what moved her fans to ardor in the first place — there was the voice itself.

For sheer vocal glory, reviewers wrote, few voices, if any, could rival Ms. Caballé’s. She was possessed of a lyric soprano that, though light and shimmering, was not without heft. It was renowned for its riverine suppleness, and for an ethereal translucence that few other voices could equal.

Over nearly half a century, critics invoked adjectives to describe Ms. Caballé’s sound that would read as staggering hyperbole for almost anyone else: “limpid,” “liquid,” “shimmering,” “quicksilver,” “celestial,” “unearthly,” “velvety,” “voluptuous,” “lustrous,” “ravishing.”

“She possesses,” Stereo Review magazine said of Ms. Caballé in 1992, “one of the most beautiful voices ever to issue from a human throat.”

Ms. Caballé displayed a noteworthy consistency of timbre throughout her range, largely sparing listeners the audible gear-shifting that can occur when singers move from low notes to high. Though she was not strictly a coloratura soprano, the innate flexibility of her instrument let her essay the Olympian heights of some coloratura works with ease.

She was especially esteemed for her ability to spin out haunting, sustained pianissimos — the whisper-quiet passages that are among the most demanding tests of a singer’s mettle, entailing diaphragm strength and breath control akin to an athlete’s.

All of these qualities made her voice particularly well suited to the bel canto repertory, consisting of elegant, filigreed works by 19th-century Italians like Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini. As a result of her prowess in that genre, Ms. Caballé was acknowledged to have helped spur a bel canto revival on opera and concert stages round the world at midcentury and beyond.

She was also adept in other genres, counting among her repertory German lieder; the Spanish dramatic songs known as zarzuelas; the operas of Verdi, for which she was widely known; Richard Strauss’s Salome, which she called her favorite operatic role; and the title part in Donizetti’s “Lucrezia Borgia,” which propelled her to international stardom after a single performance in 1965.

Ms. Caballé even recorded a well-received album with the British rock star Freddie Mercury, titled “Barcelona” and released in 1988.

Inevitably, as in any operatic career, there were critical cavils.

Ms. Caballé’s evident devotion to tone over text, reviewers complained, could result in diction so slipshod that it bordered on anarchy. At times she would actually substitute nonsense syllables for a song’s text, when she appeared to feel that the words as written, with their congestion of consonants, would impede the flow of pure, vowelly sound.

She was no actress, critics agreed, a consensus in which Ms. Caballé cheerfully concurred. And her ample frame, reviewers sometimes noted, cut an unpersuasive figure of the consumptive heroine — think of Mimì in Puccini’s “La Bohème” — that is grand opera’s stock-in-trade.

Ms. Caballé also developed a reputation for pulling out of scheduled performances, a source of chronic irritation to reviewers and chronic disappointment to fans.

“It is a standard joke in the business,” the music critic Will Crutchfield wrote in The New York Times in 1986, “that ‘Mme. Caballé is available for only a limited number of cancellations this season.’ ”

And yet … there was the voice, for in the end, when it came to appraisals of Ms. Caballé, it was always the voice that carried the day.

Writing in Newsday in 1994, the critic Tim Page encapsulated the perennial contradictions of her art.

“We attend Montserrat Caballé concerts for one reason — with the hope of being transported,” he wrote. “There are many more versatile artists, many more incisive interpreters and — God knows — many more venturesome programmers. But when Caballé is ‘on’ — as she was sporadically during her Tuesday night recital at Carnegie Hall — there is no more beautiful voice in the world.”

That voice, Ms. Caballé often said, had been a gift from God — one on which she had built rigorous, hard-won training that her impoverished childhood had very nearly placed out of reach.

Named for Our Lady of Montserrat, the patron saint of Catalonia, Maria de Montserrat Viviana Concepción Caballé i Folch was born in Barcelona on April 12, 1933.

Amid the Depression, and the Spanish Civil War, she was reared in poverty. (In interviews throughout her career, Ms. Caballé diplomatically expressed equal pride in her Catalan and Spanish backgrounds. She was also circumspect about whether her family had been Republicans, supporting Spain’s democratically elected government, or Nationalists, supporting the military dictator Francisco Franco.)

What was plain was that during those years, her family, formerly middle class, knew great hardship. Long afterward, when she was safely swathed in the jewels and furs that are a diva’s prerogative, Ms. Caballé recalled a time when she owned only a single dress. To the sneers of her classmates, she wore it to school every day for a year.

Her parents, Carles Caballé i Borrás and Anna Folch, loved music and, listening to their collection of opera records, young Montserrat was smitten. At 8, she took it upon herself to learn “Un Bel Di,” Cio-Cio-San’s aria from Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” and so she did, by ear, singing it for her family.

It was clear that the child had a remarkable talent. Though her parents could scarcely afford it, she soon began studies at the Conservatori Superior de Música del Liceu in Barcelona, first on the piano and then, as a young teenager, in voice.

Her primary voice teacher, Eugenia Kemeny, made her pupils spend a full year doing vocal exercises and breath training before they could approach real music. That training, Ms. Caballé would say afterward, let her sustain her career as long as she did.

When Montserrat was about 16, her father fell ill and could not support the family, forcing her to withdraw from the conservatory. She worked for nearly a year in a handkerchief factory before attracting the sponsorship of wealthy Barcelona patrons, who agreed to support Montserrat and her family. In gratitude, she returned annually throughout her career to sing in Barcelona.

At 20, Ms. Caballé graduated from the conservatory with its gold medal for voice and embarked on auditions with Italian opera companies. Nervous and untried, she failed at all of them, inspiring one agent, she recalled, to suggest she forsake singing and find a husband.

Trying her luck in Switzerland, she caught on with the Basel Opera in 1956, singing small roles until she was called upon to sing Mimì in place of an ailing soprano. She spent the rest of the ’50s and early ’60s singing throughout Europe.

Ms. Caballé remained relatively unknown in the United States until April 20, 1965. She had been engaged to fill in that night for an indisposed Marilyn Horne, singing Lucrezia Borgia in a concert production by the American Opera Society at Carnegie Hall.

Reviewing the performance in The Times, Raymond Ericson wrote:

“Miss Caballé had only to sing her initial romanza, a typically melting Donizetti aria with small vocal flourishes, and it was apparent that here was a singer not only with a beautifully pure voice but an outstanding command of vocal style. It was not surprising that so early in the opera the audience stopped the performance for five minutes with its applause and cheers.”

The performance established Ms. Caballé’s international career. She made her Met debut in December 1965, singing Marguerite in Gounod’s “Faust.”

Her other Met roles include the title heroine of Bellini’s “Norma,” which for its pyrotechnic rigor is considered the Everest of soprano roles; Mimì; Desdemona in Verdi’s “Otello” and Violetta in his “Traviata”; Liù in Puccini’s “Turandot”; and the title characters in Verdi’s “Aida,” Puccini’s “Tosca” and Richard Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos.”

Ms. Caballé’s career was not without difficulties. Over the years, she endured a series of illnesses, including phlebitis, a heart attack and a benign brain tumor, resulting in missed performances.

“I don’t cancel because of temperament,” she told The Chicago Tribune in 1995. “I have had seven major surgeries in my life. I have had tumors. I have had two children with Caesareans; you don’t just get up and sing the day after one of those.”

In a Spanish tax fraud case of 2014-15, Ms. Caballé agreed to a suspended sentence of six months and a fine of 254,000 euros, then about $278,000, for having falsely claimed residence in Andorra, a tax haven. (In reality, she had long maintained homes in Vienna and in the countryside near Barcelona.)

But ultimately it is Ms. Caballé’s transcendent voice, preserved on dozens of recordings, that will doubtless be remembered. Among the most highly regarded are two for RCA: a “Lucrezia,” with Shirley Verrett and Alfredo Kraus, conducted by Jonel Perlea, and a “Salome,” with Sherrill Milnes and Regina Resnik, under the baton of Erich Leinsdorf.

Ms. Caballé’s survivors include her husband, the Spanish tenor Bernabé Martí, whom she married in 1964 after he sang Pinkerton to her Cio-Cio-San; a son, Bernabé Jr.; and a daughter, Montserrat Martí, also an opera singer.

In a 1997 interview with The Telegraph, the British newspaper, Ms. Caballé gave voice to what was unmistakably the guiding ethos of her life.

“If I cannot sing,” she said simply, “I have the impression that I no longer exist.” ... -dead.html

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Re: Montserrat Caballé, Barcelona opera singer, dies at 85

Post by John F » Sun Oct 07, 2018 5:31 am

Wow, what a load of hype! Margalit Fox is not a member of the Times's music staff, she's their obituary writer; no professional critic would carry on like that. Maybe she was a fan.
John Francis

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Re: Montserrat Caballé, Barcelona opera singer, dies at 85

Post by lennygoran » Sun Oct 07, 2018 5:34 am

John F wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 5:31 am
Wow, what a load of hype! Margalit Fox is not a member of the Times's music staff, she's their obituary writer; no professional critic would carry on like that. Maybe she was a fan.
She did get some help from these two: "Raphael Minder and Zachary Woolfe contributed reporting" Regards, Len

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Re: Montserrat Caballé, Barcelona opera singer, dies at 85

Post by barney » Sun Oct 07, 2018 4:19 pm

JohnF is right - rather unrestrained.
I intend no disrespect but she was also the subject a great one-line by Clive James in the Observer in 1979:
"Tosca in Tokyo featured Montserrat Caballe. The Japanese were impressed. It was clear that they hadn’t seen anything that size since the battleship Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay in 1945."
I had the great good fortune to hear her with Pavarotti in A Masked Ball at Covent Garden in 1981. Unforgettable. Vale.

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