Montserrat Caballé

“All my life I have wanted to be a great artist. I am not one. I am a singer with a beautiful voice. But I have always done my best, wherever I have found myself, to serve my country, my career, and my music, in order to feel proud and walk through life ‘clean’… With all the operations, all the difficulties, the many enemies, but also with millions of friends. And the greatest friend is the music.”

– Montserrat Caballé, soprano

Great Interpreters: Montserrat Caballé
Broadcast on Fine Music Radio on 12 April 2013.

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In her last press interview, mere days before her death, Maria Callas was asked by Philippe Caloni whether, in her estimation, she had any real successors. She responded by stating unequivocally: “only Montserrat Caballé.” In 1980, Renata Tebaldi, was asked what she thought of the state of singing around the world. Her answer was simple: there is just one prima donna left – Montserrat Caballé. That same year, Magda Olivero, one of the last great verismo sopranos, was quoted as saying: “we singers should get down on our knees and thank God for a voice like Caballé’s.”

All three divas were right: Montserrat Caballé, or La Superba as she has come to be known, is rightfully regarded as one of the greatest singers in the history of opera. According to biographers Robert Pullen and Stephen Jay Taylor, her greatness as an artist has primarily been founded on her vocal qualities: one of the most beautiful and versatile voices in recorded history allied to a virtually flawless technique. In addition, few other singers in the annals of opera can claim such an all-encompassing repertoire, which includes virtually the entire range of Italian light lyric, lirico-spinto and dramatic roles, a substantial amount of bel canto, Verdi, verismo and French repertoire, whilst simultaneously being a noted and remarkable interpreter of Wagner and Strauss.

In this podcast, broadcast on the occasion of Caballé’s 80th birthday, I take a closer look at the career and artistry of this remarkable singer, who will be listed in the annals of operatic history as the possessor of perhaps the most beautiful voice of her age.

Podcast Track List

1) “D’amor sull’ali rosee” from Act IV of ll trovatore (Verdi)
Montserrat Caballe (Leonora)
Conductor: Giofranco Masini
Barcelona Symphony Orchestra
Recorded: 1974

2) “Depuis le jour” from Act III of Louise (Charpentier)
Montserrat Caballé (Louise)
Conductor: Carlo Felice Cillario
Barcelona Symphony Orchestra
Recorded: 1964

3) “Lo sguardo avea degli angeli” from Act I of I masnadieri (Verdi)
Montserrat Caballe (Amalia)
Conductor: Lamberto Gardelli
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Recorded: 1974

4) “Piangete voi?… Al dolce guidami” from Act II of Anna Bolena (Donizetti)
Montserrat Caballé (Anna Bolena)
Conductor: Carlo Felice Cillario
Barcelona Symphony Orchestra
Recorded: 1964

5) “Com’è bello” from Prologue to Act I of Lucrezia Borgia (Donizetti)
Montserrat Caballé (Lucrezia Borgia)
Conductor: Carlo Felice Cillario
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded: 1965

6) “Merce, dilette amiche” from Act V of I vespri Siciliani (Verdi)
Montserrat Caballé (Elena)
Giofranco Masini (conductor)
Barcelona Symphony Orchestra
Recorded: 1974

7) “Vissi d’arte” from Act II of Tosca (Puccini)
Montserrat Caballé (Floria Tosca)
Conductor: Carlo Felice Cillario
Barcelona Symphony Orchestra
Recorded: 1964

8) “Casta Diva… A bello a me ritorna” from Act I of Norma (Bellini)
Montserrat Caballé (Norma)
Conductor: Carlo Felice Cillario
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded: 1965

9) “Mira, o Norma… Sì, fino all’ore estreme” from Act II of Norma (Bellini)
Dame Joan Sutherland (Norma)
Montserrat Caballé (Adalgisa)
Conductor: Richard Bonynge
Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera
Recorded: 1984

10) “Giorno d’orrore… Madre, addio…” from Act II of Semiramide (Rossini)
Marilyn Horne (Arsace)
Montserrat Caballé (Semiramide)
Conductor: Jesús López-Cobos
Recorded: 1980, “live” at Aix-en-Provence

11) Extract from Act 5/4 (1883 revision) of Don Carlo (Verdi)
Montserrat Caballé (Elisabetta)
Piero Cappuccilli (Rodrigo)
Recorded: 1969, “live”

12) “Du bist die Ruh” (Schubert)
Montserrat Caballé (soprano)
Miguel Zanetti (piano)
Recorded: 1963

13) Morgen!, Op. 27 No. 4 (Strauss)
Montserrat Caballé (soprano)
Miguel Zanetti (piano)
Recorded: 1964

14) “Barcelona” (Mercury/Moran)
Montserrat Caballé (soprano)
Freddie Mercury (tenor)
Recorded: 1988

One Comment

  1. Sean

    A stunning peerless introduction to the Diva Montserrat Caballe ! By the time its through, you feel like you know and love the vintage Spanish soprrano. What a superbly vast range of repertoire you have given us, Adriaan, and a desire to discover more: from Rossini an Bellini to Vangelis’ Barcelona (and what a voice Freddie Mercury displayed on that unforgettable occasion). Hard to choose from a selection of perfect musical gems : I was also competely blown away also by the Rossini duet with Marilyn Horne from Semirade (no 10 above).
    thank you once again, Adriaan. I do believe your podcasts deserve be a huge success internationally as well as locally and I wish it were so.
    Sean

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