Singers on Singing :
Montserrat Caballé

Singers on Singing: Montserrat Caballé

In February 2009, the great virtuoso Spanish soprano Monserrat Caballé made a special appearance in Chicago’s Orchestra Hall where, at the age of 75, she gave a concert of opera, song and zarazuela selections, and just before the event she recorded a telephone conversation with Jon Tolansky for WFMT which was one of the rare, valuable occasions when she spoke about her career and some of her most celebrated operatic roles. She also discussed some of the many little known compositions that she has always championed in her legendary career, which began in 1956 when she sang Mimi at the Basel Opera. It was nine years later, in 1965, that she became an over-night international star when she sang the title role in Lucrezia Borgia at the Carnegie Hall in a semi-staged performance. As she relates in her interview, she was a replacement for a famous great artist that night, Marilyn Horne, who had become pregnant, and after being a little known singer in the United States at the start of the performance, she was world opera news at the end when she won a 25-minute standing ovation from the thrilled audience. Although throughout her career Caballé was so particularly celebrated for her immaculate technique and exceptional flexibility in bel canto, Verdi and verismo roles, she in fact mastered an exceptionally wide ranging repertoire in many languages and genres, and this is one of the topics she discusses most revealingly in her conversation, which began with a description of the music she had chosen for her concert. As she was speaking on the telephone from her home in Barcelona, the sound quality of the interview is of course considerably inferior to the normal standard, but as this is such a valuably informative interview on many levels, it is being included here in the Singers on Singing site. Details of the music extracts that are played follow below.

–Jon Tolansky

Listen to the documentary immediately below (in two parts; total length of approx. 1 hour, 3 min.)


Jon Tolansky

Musical excerpts included in this feature:

  • “Com’è bello” from Lucrezia Borgia (Donizetti, from the album Lucrezia Borgia)
  • “M’odi, ah m’odi” from Lucrezia Borgia (Donizetti, from the album Lucrezia Borgia)
  • “Il est doux, il est bon” from Hérodiade (Massenet, from the album Hérodiade)
  • “In questa reggia” from Turandot (Puccini, from the album Turandot)
  • “Straniero, ascolta” from Turandot (Puccini, from the album Turandot)
  • “Ah, ich habe deinen Mund geküßt, Jochanaan” from Salome (Strauss, from the album Salome)
  • “Ritorna Vincitor!” from Aida (Verdi, from the album Aida)

Related Resources


Singers on Singing: The Performer’s Perspective


Singers on Singing: Singing Strauss


Singers on Singing :
Marilyn Horne


Singers on Singing :
Mirella Freni

Part of

Singers on Singing: Great Artists in Conversation