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Remembering Montserrat Caballé (1933–2018)

The Spanish soprano died on 6 October 2018 at the age of 85.

By Alasdair Steven (Music writer)

8 October 2018 at 2.32pm | 5 Comments

The Royal Opera is saddened by the death of Montserrat Caballé, who died on 6 October 2018 at the age of 85.

Caballé was one of the finest sopranos of the second half of the 20th century, with an effortless and pure legato, and the ability to sing exquisite floated pianissimos on high notes. She was particularly renowned for her interpretations of Donizetti, Bellini and Verdi heroines.

Montserrat Caballé  made a memorable debut with The Royal Opera in 1972 as Violetta Valéry in La traviata under conductor Carlo Felice Cillario with Nicolai Gedda as Alfredo and Peter Glossop as Germont. Three years later she returned as Leonora in a revival of Il trovatore conducted by Anton Guadagno, which also starred Carlo Cossutta, Irina Arkhipova and Sherrill Milnes.

In 1977 Caballé sang twice with The Royal Opera: first as Aida under Riccardo Muti with Plácido Domingo, Fiorenza Cossotto and Paul Plishka, and later in the year as the title role in Tosca, conducted by Robin Stapleton with José Carreras and Peter Glossop; she also sang this role on tour to South Korea in 1979 with The Royal Opera. Caballé returned to The Royal Opera in 1978 to sing the title role in a revival of Norma, also starring Grace Bumbry as Adalgisa, conducted by Jesús López-Cobos.

She sang Amelia in a 1989 Royal Opera revival of Un ballo in maschera conducted by Bernard Haitink. Although she, along with other cast members, was unwell during rehearsals, Caballé received great praise for her beautiful singing and well-rounded interpretation of Amelia, with one critic noting how ‘Caballé floated Verdi’s phrases exquisitely’. Other cast members included Luciano Pavarotti as Gustavo (replaced by Juan Lloveras on first night due to illness), Matteo Manuguerra as Renato, Patricia Payne as Madame Arvidson and Yvonne Kenny as Oscar.

Caballé’s last appearance with The Royal Opera was in 1992 as Madame Cortese in a new production of Il viaggio a Reims conducted by Carlo Rizzi and directed by John Cox. The production marked the UK’s presidency of the European Community and the cast also included Renée Fleming, Sylvia McNair and Gregory Yurisich. This production was one of her last appearances on the opera stage, though she continued to perform in concert thereafter.

Oliver Mears, Director of Opera for The Royal Opera, said:

‘Montserrat Caballé was one of the great singers of the bel canto and Italian Romantic repertory. At Covent Garden in the 1970s and 80s, she gave unforgettable interpretations of Leonora (in Il trovatore), Amelia (in Un ballo in maschera), Tosca, Aida and Norma, among other roles, and her impassioned delivery and unique stage personality left an indelible impression on all who saw and heard her. Unencumbered by any feelings of snobbery about opera as an art form, Caballé was one of the small number of opera singers of her era who experienced truly global recognition, embracing music of all kinds as she sought to communicate with audiences whoever and wherever they were. She will be much missed.’

By Alasdair Steven (Music writer)

8 October 2018 at 2.32pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged 'montserrat caballé', obituary

This article has 5 comments

  1. Stephen Bayard responded on 8 October 2018 at 6:50pm Reply

    I was privileged to see Montserrat Caballé in all her rôles at Covent Garden. As I have kept a record of them all, can I correct some details?Her Germont Père was Victor Braun. Peter Glossop sang Amonasro with her (Plishka was Ramfis). She sang Amelia in 1981. She also gave quite a few recitals at Covent Garden. We were fortunate to see her as often as we did.

  2. alig responded on 8 October 2018 at 11:02pm Reply

    re Il Viaggio a Reims (1992).
    Am I imagining it, or do I remember her being involved in an increasingly-animated and surreal fruit fight with the conductor (Carlo Rizzi?) in the final act, for no obvious reason?

    • J Hiles responded on 9 October 2018 at 10:56pm

      She threw an apple to the conductor which prompted complaints from the orchestra that it could have damaged their instruments. She then received a reprimand from the ROH.

  3. Rudolph Fonty responded on 9 October 2018 at 6:22am Reply

    1989 for her Amelia is a wrong date.

  4. Sharon Weber responded on 10 October 2018 at 2:27am Reply

    Truly a loss for music!

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