Opera singer struck gold at Olympics

Daily Express - - LIVES REMEMBERED -

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.


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