Montserrat Caballé has died, aged 85

The legendary Spanish soprano died today after a long struggle with ill-health, interspersed with harassment by Spanish officials.

Barcelona born she made her breakthrough in 1965 as a Carnegie Hall stand-in for Marilyn Horne, followed that summer by Glyndebourne debuts as the Marschallin in Der Rosesnkavalier and the Countess in Marriage of Figaro.

Although popular at the Met, it took seven more years for her to enter Covent Garden, which along with other houses remained sniffy about her blurry diction. Audiences, however, adored the huge sound she emitted.

Surgery for a brain tumour and subsequent heart problems slowed down her career but the moment of global fame came when she recorded a duet for the Barcelona Olympics with Freddie Mercury.

She is mourned by her husband, two children and millions of opera fans.

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  • Henning Viljoen says:

    One of the last great Divas of the opera world!

  • Stafford Law says:

    Freddie Mercury was dead by the time of the Barcelona Olympics.

    She was accompanied in the opening ceremony by Aragall, Carreras and Domingo.

    • Dr Presume says:

      But the song was recorded FOR the Barcelona Olympics, it’s just that Freddie didn’t sing it AT them. But he did sing it at an event with Caballé in Barcelona in 1988 when the Olympic flag arrived in the city to mark the start of the Barcelona olympiad (which I think might have been his last ever live performance).

      • Dominic Stafford says:

        Norman Lebrecht altered the text of his article to reflect the correction I made. He originally maintained she’d opened the Olympics with Mercury.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Eh? I’m pretty certain you are wrong.

  • Simon Scott says:

    I don’t like opera singers. IMO,they’re just a bunch of temperamental racketeers.
    I well remember MC in South Africa in Norma.
    She sang the 1st act and cancelled the 2nd.
    Many people were very miffed about it.
    Like others of her ilk she went on well past her sell-by date.
    No wonder she was referred to as Monster-rat Cowbelly!

    • Tiredofitall says:

      This may be an impolite response to your thoughtfu and humane post, but SHUT UP. A great artist has passed away. Either express your condolences at this time or remain silent. Rest In Peace, Senora Caballé…and thank you.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      This may be an impolite response to your thoughtful and humane post, but SHUT UP you disgusting troll. A great artist has passed away. Either express your condolences at this time or remain silent. Rest In Peace, Senora Caballé…and thank you.

    • Margaret Whitaker says:

      DISGUSTING COMMENT

    • Razz Matazz says:

      Such an insightful comment. Your mother must be really proud of you.

    • Alan says:

      Class all the way, huh, Simon?

      • Simon Scott says:

        You people may not like my comment,however,unlike most of you,I at least have the gallantry to post using my real name……

        • M2N2K says:

          Your name does not make your distasteful comment any more gallant.

        • Tiredofitall says:

          Simon – Do excuse me…your real name makes it completely OK to write an inhumane post. What was I thinking? Please, please forgive me for calling out your insensitive rant. The world needs more people like you; not afraid to spew venom upon the demise of a long-revered artist. Bravo! (Please forward this to your parents.)

        • Stuart says:

          I am not sure what posting under one’s real name has to do with it, but your comment was both foul and rude. My real name is Stuart by the way…

          • Ruben Greenberg says:

            I will remember the man’s name in order to skip any further comments by this person on any subject.

        • Nick2 says:

          What you post has absolutely nothing to do with your posted name – real or otherwise. A disgusting comment at this time of which you should be thoroughly ashamed.

    • Alex Davies says:

      What a vile thing to say about anybody, living or dead, famous or unknown.

  • Bruce says:

    One of the great voices of the 20th century. RIP.

  • Radames says:

    She was a truly great singer and a wonderful person with a huge sense of humour and self irony. I remember her wonderful performances of Il Viaggio a Reims with Abbado in Vienna in 1988. She was clearly no longer in her prime but hugely enjoyed herself during the performances. At the curtain calls she came out once briefly but didn’t feel that she deserved more, showing great modesty. Her personality was really special and she will be greatly missed!

  • Fred says:

    harassment??? If she had paid her taxes like every citizen there wouldn’t have been any ‘harassment’ at all……………..

  • Petros Linardos says:

    The wonderful Casta Diva clip above is from a remarkable live performance available on DVD. Vickers sings Polione.
    http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/Drilldown?comp_id=7408&bcorder=H8&opera=Y&album_group=24&name_id=56183&name_role=3

  • Alex Davies says:

    I saw today’s Met Opera Live in HD of Aida. No mention of Montserrat Caballé until Roberto Alagna made a quick reference to her death during the second intermission. I had expected that the performance would be dedicated to her memory, a minute’s silence observed, etc.

    • Sharon Beth Long says:

      I suspect the Opera in HD interviews are pretty well scripted. I am sure the MET will have some sort of dedication or tribute in the next few weeks

      • AMetFanfan says:

        The Met has full staffs in their media, editorial, and press departments. Time was not the issue. Willful lack of respect and for the importance of Met history were the deciding factors in not mentioning the passing of one of the past centuries most important singers. (The joke around the house is that there was no opera before Peter…). Thankfully those who really care can mourn and remember in their ways.

      • AMetFan says:

        The Met has full staffs in their media, editorial, and press departments. Time was not the issue. Willful lack of respect and for the importance of Met history were the deciding factors in not mentioning the passing of one of the past centuries most important singers. (The joke around the house is that there was no opera before Peter…). Thankfully those who really care can mourn and remember in their ways.

  • Ms.Melody says:

    Hearing her Norma in 1973 changed my life. Opera became a life-long passion, not merely a hobby or an interest. She had a gorgeous voice and an incredible vocal technique and intelligence that is so clearly missing in many of today’s soloists.
    RIP great Diva and thank you.
    And to all the Simons out there-De mortuis nihil nisi bonum.

    • Simon Scott says:

      The Norma which I heard with MC sounded second to none. Then all of a sudden she opted out. No second act. Annoying.
      This was about 1983. Yes,She did have a great voice,however,that is no excuse to lead people a dance.

      • Nick2 says:

        I can understand your annoyance. I heard her as Norma in Vienna in 1977. Utterly glorious. But for you to voice your annoyance in the same breath as childish insults just after the announcement of her passing, you illustrate your pettiness and narrow-mindedness.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Um…don’t you think you are perhaps over-reacting. Occasionally singers don’t complete the gig. And you were unlucky. Disappointing I know. But it seems a tad small-minded to take this quite so personally so many years later.

        • Simon Scott says:

          I appreciate what you say,however,in this instance,MC sang like a dream. The Casta Diva was out of this world. In short,what MC did sing was fantastic. Everybody was raving about her. Then came the dreaded announcement after the interval……

  • Mister New York says:

    Every inch a Diva. Will never forget her wonderful performances with Eve Queller and the Opera Orchestra of New York. Her Aroldo by Verdi was magnificent. Loved her in I Vespri Siciliani at the Met with those heavenly pianissimi. May she rest in peace with the Angels in heaven.

    • Ms.Melody says:

      And her Luisa Miller with Pavarotti, where she actually sings staccato in the first act aria, something that most sopranos are unable to do. If you attended her recitals you would remember the sheer joy and delight on her face every time she sang a beautiful note or produced a gorgeous rounded phrase. We will not hear the likes of her again.
      This is truly the end of an era. There is a wonderful documentary of her rehearsing the Verdi’s Requem. She was a sublime and rare artist..

  • David H Spence says:

    I regret having never had the opportunity to see Montserrat Caballe in person. Whatever a few moral failings towards the end of her life and a little stodginess dramatically and musically time to time, there were so many, many times Caballe rose to the occasion and magnificently so. Anybody who could sing Lucia, Puritani, Fiordiligi in Cosi, Trovatore, Forza, Tosca, Ariadne auf Naxos, Tristan und Isolde, all one singer – name me anybody else.

    The recording industry definitely owes us, moreover her legacy the following: the Met Vespri (with Gedda, Milnes, Diaz, Levine), any notable Gemma di Vergy, Lucrezia Borgia, Rossini she did in her prime, n fully restored live performances, a reissue of the wonderful Cosi with her, Janet Baker, Cotrubas, Gedda, and Colin Davis in new packaging and transfer (it was the first complete Cosi I ever listened to), an Adriana Lecouvreur too (a broadcast with Carreras perhaps the Met put on once)., any really good Trovatore of hers.

    This was a woman very generous in spirit, in her sense of humor, work with her colleagues. A great woman, frequently too a great singer and we do not have her equal today anywhere of which I can think. Caballe will be very sorely missed, but may her rich legacy live on, in what we can remember of her musical contribution for sure, but of her character and rich warmth as a human being as well.

  • Quodlibet says:

    I loved her voice.

  • fierywoman says:

    I saw her as Turandot in San Francisco in the mid 70’s with Pavarotti (Prince Charles was in the audience.) I stood through it and when it was over the guys standing with me said, “Meet you at the bridge.” I also saw her at a lovely recital very late one night a few years later in Barcelona. RIP Maestra.

    • A Hogbin says:

      I heard some glorious recitals at Covent Garden in the 1980s – at one of which she sang one of Freddie Mercury’s songs and she acknowledged his presence in the theatre I seem to recall. One of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard live and she had a wonderful way of phrasing lines exactly as one imagined it should be done. The Viaggio a Rheims was a shadow of her past glories. Some of the recordings of rare bel canto are wondrous. RIP.

  • Escamillo says:

    A sublimely, creamy and truly beautiful voice. I am so glad that we have her recordings.

  • Alexandra Ivanoff says:

    My voice teacher (Edward Sayegh) in San Francisco had attended her master classes in Rome as a student. All the work started with lying down on the floor for breathing exercises, and then holding single notes on specific vowels while doing slow leg lifts. She told him this was how to master those high-flying pianissimos she was so famous for. So hard to believe this iconic diva is gone!

  • Jim Meredith says:

    Singing in the New Orleans Opera chorus in 1968 when Caballé and Domingo did Trovatore was a techtonic plate-shifting experience for me as a 22-year old music student. The sound of her voice live was an indelible experience that I told my students about for decades. Thank goodness the New Orleans Opera has released the archive recording of that production with maestro Knud Andersson conducting (on the VAI label). The next year I had the good fortune to turn pages for her civic auditorium recital with her husband, tenor Marti Benabé. She opened with the coloratura variations on Paisello’s “Nel cor non più mi sento” which were unlike anything I had ever heard before. A great voice, a great musicianship and a very lovely lady. Who today can come near that?

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