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Montserrat Caballé

Montserrat Caballe

Montserrat Caballé. The famous opera singer's career is full of successes, especially during the '70s and '80s, during which she sang in over 80 roles.

The life of international opera diva Montserrat Caballé hasn't always been a bed of roses. María de Montserrat Bibiana Concepción Caballé i Folch was born in the spring of 1933 into a humble family comprised of a Catalonian father and Valencian mother that experienced many of the hardships common during post-Civil War Spain. Her mother, Ana Folch, taught her basics of music theory and the young Montserrat showed early on her talent for singing. With the help of a wealthy family from Barcelona that sponsored her disinterestedly, she was able to enter the Barcelona music Conservatory, Conservatorio Superior de Música del Liceo when she was 11 years old.

Montserrat shared her time studying music with that of accounting while she also did odd jobs working as a store clerk as well as other jobs like mending stockings. She also learned English and French, all the while demonstrating a will to succeed and a level of sacrifice and tenacity that has been her trademark throughout her life.

In the Liceo she studied under Eugenia Kemeny, a Hungarian who was married to a Spaniard, who helped her develop her spectacular breathing technique which has enabled her to become one of the finest examples of the bel canto opera style following in the footsteps of Maria Callas, who brought back to life this style that had disappeared for a century. Her technical dominance has made her one of the most recognized singers of the verismo tradition of opera made famous by composers such as Mascagni, Leoncavallo and Puccini.

Her first steps on the stage took place in 1950 at the Teatro Fortuny in Reus, where she sang La Serva Padrona from Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. In 1956, she became a member of the cast of the Basel Opera company in Switzerland where she sang in Mozart's The Magic Flute. That same year she stood in for the star singer, who became ill, in the role of Mimi in the Puccini's La Bohème. Her success in this role would mark the beginning of her international career. In the following years she sang the principal roles in operas like Puccini's Tosca, Verdi's Aida or Strauss' Salome. She began performing in Vienna, Bremen and La Scala in Milan where she was performed as the female lead. Her debut in the Liceo of Barcelona, which she considers her "home", took place for the premier in Spain of Strauss' Arabella.

In 1964, Montserrat was the principal female singer in Madama Butterfly alongside Bernagé Martí, an Aragonese singer.  Born from this performance was relationship that would lead to a wedding of these two singers.

1965 would be an important turning point in Caballé's career.  Only three days after her birthday, she substituted for Marilyn Horne in the stage performance of Lucrezia Borgia at New York's Carnegie Hall. Her success was so great that she received a standing ovation that lasted for almost half an hour from a crowd of very demanding music lovers. One New York newspaper wrote the headline: Callas + Tebaldi = Caballé. From this moment, this new diva began her work of "recovering" lesser known works and composers, in keeping with her interest of operatic verismo.

Her career is full of successes, especially during the '70s and '80s, during which she sang in over 80 different roles that have ranged from the baroque to Wagner and Strauss.

At the end of the 1980s she sang with Freddie Mercury on the album Barcelona. The title song, Mercury's second performance away from Queen, was selected as the anthem of the Olympic Games of Barcelona in 1992. During the opening ceremonies, Caballé would sing without her flamboyant duet partner since Mercury died the year before.

Montserrat Caballé has received numerous prestigious awards and honors like the Gold Medal of the Generalitat (1982), the Spanish National Music Prize (1988) and the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts (1991) which she received together with Plácido Domingo, Josep Carreras, Alfredo Klaus, Teresa Berganza, Victoria de los Ángeles and Pilar Lorengar. They received this award as a group since they were considered representatives of an exceptional generation of Spanish lyrical music.

As was mentioned above, Caballé's life hasn't always been a bed of roses. In October of 2012, she suffered a stroke from which she has almost recovered completely. Caballé, these last few years, has shown up infrequently in public mainly due to her age. In 2013, she participated in an unfortunate Christmas lottery commercial in which she regrets participating in. In April of 2014, she was charged with alleged tax evasion which emotionally depressed her. Even with this charge hanging over her head, she continues to perform in the company of her daughter, Montserrat Martí and the tenor Jordi Galán in a recital of arias and duets. With the event held in January of 2015 at the Teatro Arriaga in Bilbao, the performance there marked the beginning of a European tour that will take this diva to the stages of Europe to the delight of her fans and music lovers everywhere.