of a Dvořák rarity, Armida. In April 1962 she is Donna Elvira at Lausanne. The same year marks her first appearance at the opera house of her native city—the Liceu Arabella, and the Donna Elvira and Figaro Countess that followed, initiated an association with the Liceu that lasted longer, and demonstrated her versatility more fully, than any other.
From this point the debuts became more frequent and more internationally widespread. This was directly a result of her brother Carlos becoming her manager, and, in terms of confidence and wellbeing, of her 1964 marriage to the tenor who had been her Liceu Des Grieux (in the Puccini opera) and Pinkerton, Bernabé Martí—a marriage lasting until her death, of which she said, ‘Through Bernabé I found peace and equilibrium. I would not be who I am without him.’
■ In Wagner: Caballé as Sieglinde in Madrid, 1986
In May 1964 a Lausanne Figaro had Caballé as Countess and John Pritchard, already a long-time Glyndebourne associate, as conductor, leading to her Glyndebourne engagement for the following season in the same Mozart opera (under Vittorio Gui) and as the Marschallin (under Pritchard). The April 1965 New York debut preceded that Glyndebourne debut: one consequence seems to have been Caballé’s arrival at the festival the following month knowing not a note or word of her Rosenkavalier role yet managing to learn it in a fortnight. In December, Gounod’s Faust was the work chosen for the first of her numerous appearances at the New York Metropolitan, and thereafter the top international operatic stages were conquered in swift succession.
But let me close with that Lucrezia Borgia concert, and a passage from its subsequent New York Herald Tribune review by John Gruen, since it encapsulates both the coup de foudre impact she achieved that evening and the enduring qualities that justify her status as one of the supreme sopranos of the later 20th century: ‘Genius from Richter, Nureyev and Fonteyn was to be expected. But no one was prepared to come face to face with it in a singer few had ever heard of … When Montserrat Caballé sang her first aria, “Com’è bello”, there was a perceptible change in atmosphere. It seemed for a moment that everyone had stopped breathing. What registered, of course, was an acute awareness that here was singing of a most unusual sort. It had, to put it simply, the quality of
Opera, December 2018