Carreras: She was the century’s most important singer, after Callas

Carreras: She was the century’s most important singer, after Callas


norman lebrecht

October 09, 2018

Speaking at the private funeral of Montserrat Caballé yesterday in Barcelona, her fellow-Catalan eulogised her as ‘together with Maria Callas, the most important singer of the 20th century’.

Queen Sofia of Spain and prime minister Sanchez were among those in attendance.

Cameras were excluded from the church.

Caballé was buried at the Sant Andreu cemetery, next to her parents.

Others present included: the tenors Jaume Aragall  and Josep Bros, baritone Joan Pons, early music director Jordi Savall  with his wife Maria Bartels and the conductor Antoni Ros Marbà . Joan Matabosch represented the Teatro Real, Salvador Alemany , Valentí Oviedo , Christina Scheppelmann and  Josep Pons were there for the Liceu.


  • Nik says:

    So which one did he actually say, “after” or “together with”?

    • Mike Schachter says:

      Does it matter?

      • Nik says:

        Yes it does. The meaning is very different.
        It would be rather strange to eulogise someone as being second to someone else, whereas to put her next to the greatest as an equal is a lovely tribute. I can’t imagine that Carreras would have said the former, so why the silly headline?

    • Federico says:

      The exact words were: “She has been the most important soprano of the 20th century and, if there was anyone who could approach her, it was Maria Callas,” he said, as well as praising her versatility, vocation and love for the profession.

      The tenor said that she is “an exceptional artist, a woman endearing and simple in the day to day”, he remembered that she was majestic when she put on her costumes of Queen of England to interpret ‘Maria Estuardo’ or ‘Elisabetta’ of England.
      Source: parcial translation of

  • Caravaggio says:

    Hogwash. How exactly? Of course Carreras didn’t/couldn’t give details. No singer who was “the century’s most important singer after Callas” cheats audiences for decades, coasting on her early laurels and “brand”. But artistic vitality? Zero.

    • Federico says:

      What a misplaced, offensive, and out of place comment. Know the popular proverb “if you have nothing to say, say nothing”. If you did not like the personality to which the news refers, keep your opinions for yourself, in favor of Mr. Lebrecht’s readers. Thanks in advance

    • Robin Worth says:

      Forget the fraud, remember the pianissimo

  • Caravaggio says:

    It is interesting that Queen Sofia’s own son-in-law currently resides behind bars for financial crimes. Montserrat “Angel” Caballé was very very lucky, wasn’t she?

    • Nik says:

      His offences were on a different scale entirely, not just tax fraud but abusing his position to embezzle tens of millions of public money, and for that he only got ten months.

    • Don Pasquale says:

      My goodness. How sad to have so much bile,or piles. Have you seen a doctor recently?
      I could prescribe something for you-or you could get it on Amazon. If you have not heard of Amazon then use Google to learn. Neither of these companies pays much in the way of tax so you could direct your ire in their direction to greater good.

  • anon says:

    It’s a bit like saying “together with Pavarotti and Domingo, Carreras was the most important singer of the 20th century”

    Literally true, they were all together on that same stage for the Three Tenors tour…

  • M McAlpine says:

    OTT statement by Carreras. Why not say she was one of the great sopranos of the 20th century – something everyone can agree with.

  • George says:

    It was said at a private funeral. He was one of her close friends. Who cares if everyone agrees with what he says.

  • Jonathan says:

    That must be news for Flagstad, Nilsson, Ponselle, Sutherland and Price amongst other titans of opera! A great singer no doubt, if somewhat inconsistent, but the greatest after Callas? I hardly think so. This is of course presuming you even consider Callas to be the greatest, which many of us do not. Carerras is of course professionally indebted to her and it’s his personal opinion and nothing more. Having seen her on numerous occasions from the 60s to the late 80s, she was a wayward and often disappointing performer. Occasionally she would rise to greatness, but more often or not she would fall far short of that, sometimes spectacular so. A beautiful sound undoubtedly, except on high when it was often forced, shrill and strident, especially from the mid 70s onwards. Not a particularly big voice for her era, just a standard lyric with enough edge and colour to see her through some of the more challenging roles. Her most alarming defect was just how wordless she could be. There are numerous documented examples of her just omitting the words altogether and substituting them with many an ooohaahh. Her technique, was solid and she had fabulous legato and incredible breath control, but then so did many, many other singers of her time. As with the passing of all sacred monsters, we shouldn’t mythologise them too much. She was great……at times.

    • Nik says:

      It’s a eulogy for heaven’s sake. You don’t get up at a funeral and deliver an objective analysis of where the deceased should be ranked among her peers. You say something nice, heartfelt and beautiful, or you don’t speak. That’s the context of these comments.

      • Anne-Sophie says:

        Except it’s a eulogy delivered in a private sphere which inevitably has gone public. If opera stars stick their neck on the line and make grandiose statements then anyone should be able to do likewise, eulogy or not. I invariably enjoyed Caballé whenever she bothered to turn up, so didn’t really experience too many of the downsides mentioned above, except for one very poor Turandot, which was just a screech-fest. Although I only heard her a few times, she did not exactly blow me away like Olivero and Tebaldi did. I do remember vividly just how beautiful her voice could be, it was something to treasure. Absolutely one of the great singers of the 20th century.

    • Robin Worth says:

      Look at it from Carreras’s perspective

      He may have heard Sutherland, perhaps-I have no idea- but probably not any of the others you name except on disc. And he certainly sang with none of them

      So why should he not say that she was the best singer of his time and the only one to compare to Callas (whom he will also never have heard perform live on stage) He sang with Caballe often enough

      And they both came from the same background, although if you listen to his comments at the funeral you might wonder at his saying that there was too much in Castellano and not enough in Catalan

      Anyway, he is entitled to his opinion and I suspect that there will be many who share it

  • Luigi Nonono says:

    What an incredible insult to the genius Catalan soprano, Victoria de los Angeles, who was superior to every other soprano of her generation when it came to artistry, and who had a longer career than most of them, including Caballe.