Opera Scotland

Montserrat Caballé Suggest updates

Maria de Montserrat Viviana Concepción Caballé i Folch

Born Barcelona, 12 April 1933.

Died Barcelona, 6 October 2018.

Spanish soprano.

Montserrat Caballé was one of the leading operatic sopranos of her era, demonstrating a fine sense of drama with a superb technique and beautiful tone, particularly suited to music of the bel canto era.  She gained great international celebrity beyond the opera world when 'Barcelona', a duet she had recorded with Freddie Mercury in 1987, was chosen as the theme song for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

Early years

Caballé studied in Barcelona at the Liceu, graduating in 1953, before spending some time working in Italy.  She became a contract artist at Basle 1956-9, then at Bremen 1959-62.  Her repertoire during this period included many Germanic roles such as First Lady, Elisabeth, Eva, Salome, Ariadne and Arabella,  However she also took on Italian parts (Mimì, Aïda), and Russian roles including Tatyana and Renata (The Fiery Angel).

Her international breakthrough came in 1965 when she was a last minute replacement at Carnegie Hall, New York, in a concert performance of Lucrezia Borgia. She returned there for concert performances including La straniera, Gemma di Vergy and Aroldo.  She appeared frequently at the New York Met from 1965, and also sang at most of the major American houses.  Although her debut at La Scala was in 1960, as a Flowermaiden, she didn't appear there regularly until 1969, but later sang Lucrezia Borgia, Maria Stuarda, Norma and many other roles.  She also sang frequently at Vienna and other continental houses.  She worked at her home theatre in Barcelona throughout a long career.

UK appearances

Her British debut, in 1965, was at Glyndebourne (Countess Almaviva, Marschallin).  She didn't appear at Covent Garden until 1972 (Violetta), but quickly returned as Norma, Leonora, Amelia, and Aïda.  She also worked with the Royal Opera on a tour to Japan, when she sang Tosca.  After a fifteen year gap, she returned to the Royal Opera in 1992 for Rossini's Viaggio a Reims.  Concert performances in London included Caterina CornaroMaria Stuarda. and Roberto Devereux.

Edinburgh International Festival

Caballé never sang opera in Scotland, but with regular accompanist Miguel Zanetti gave highly successful recitals in the Usher Hall during two successive Edinburgh Festivals (1989 and 1990).  This was quite late in her career, but despite significant health problems she was still vocally in fine fettle (links to the two recitals are below).


Caballé made a wide range of operatic recordings, mainly in the studio, though there were some live performances of rarities as well.  They include Mozart (Così fan tutte);  Spontini (Agnese di Hohenstaufen);  Rossini (Il turco in Italia, Elisabetta regina d'InghilterraGuillaume Tell);  Donizetti (Lucrezia Borgia, Lucia di Lammermoor, Roberto Devereux, Gemma di Vergy);  Bellini (Il pirata, La straniera, Norma, I puritani);  Verdi (ErnaniGiovanna d'Arco, Il corsaro, I MasnadieriLuisa Miller, La traviata, Aroldo, Don CarlosAïda); Boito (Mefistofele); Ponchielli (La gioconda); Leoncavallo (Pagliacci); Mascagni (Cavalleria Rusticana); Giordano (Andrea Chénier); Puccini (Manon Lescaut, La bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, Turandot); Strauss (Salome). She appears in a recording of the Verdi Requiem conducted a few months before his death by Sir John Barbirolli, and also made several recordings of operatic arias.  A DVD of Norma filmed at the Roman amphitheatre of Orange is considered to be a particularly good interpretation.

Roles in Scotland

Recital 1989
Recital 1990

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