Opera singer struck gold at Olympics
OPERA singer Montserrat Caballé’s most memorable performance came at the opening ceremony of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
When she performed Barcelona with Plácido Domingo and José Carreras, the song she had released with Freddie Mercury five years earlier, the crowd went wild and it became the signature song of that year’s Games.
Caballé was born in Barcelona in the midst of the Civil War. Her family was so poor that at times she only owned one dress.
Her parents, Charles and Anan, loved music and as a child Caballé was inspired by the opera records they would play.
By the age of eight, she had learnt to sing Un Bel Di Vedremo from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and would perform for her family.
Aged nine, she was accepted to train at the prestigious Conservatori Liceu music college in Barcelona.
However her father became ill when she was 16 and as he could no longer support the family, Caballé had to leave the school and begin working at a handkerchief factory.
She continued to sing, however, and was eventually sponsored by wealthy patrons who agreed to support her family and pay her school fees. To show her gratitude, Caballé would return to Barcelona annually to perform a concert.
In 1953 she graduated and went to Italy where she landed some minor opera roles but her performance as Mimi in La Bohème at the Basel Opera in 1956 wowed the critics.
She made her big breakthrough as an opera singer in 1965 in Lucrezia Borgia at New York’s Carnegie Hall. The audience were enthralled and she became a star. She went on to travel the world, performing with the Bremen Opera and at London’s Covent Garden.
However she was dogged by ill health. In 1985 she had a brain tumour and in 1993 she was treated for heart problems. Enduring major surgeries had a knock-on effect on her singing and Caballé gained a reputation for cancelling concerts.
In 2015 Caballé was given a suspended prison sentence for tax fraud and fined 254,000 euros for falsely claiming residence in Andorra. She is survived by her husband Bernabé and two children.
STAR SOPRANO: Caballé