LA SUPERBA Janet Baker, Joan Matabosch, Max Loppert and Christopher Webber pay tribute to Montserrat Caballé A singer whose skill was marvelled at by all who heard her, Montserrat Caballé died in Barcelona on October 6 at the age of 85. She is remembered and celebrated here by her fellow singer Janet Baker; by Joan Matabosch, the artistic director of the Teatro Real, Madrid and the former artistic director of the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona; and by Christopher Webber, an authority on zarzuela. Max Loppert contributes a full obituary. Janet Baker The only occasion on which I had the great honour of singing alongside Montserrat Caballé was the recording we made with Colin Davis in 1974 of Così fan tutte. It’s an experience that even now remains in my memory quite clearly and wonderfully. The delight and pleasure of working together was unforgettable.
Her reputation obviously went before her, and I think she felt my admiration and heroine worship. But at a deeper level we got on extremely well. Like a lot of outgoing people she was, I think, beset by a lack of confidence deep down—that may have been the source of her reputation for being difficult. But we hit it off very quickly and she seemed to enjoy our music-making together to such an extent that in those recording sessions she did without me she used to play up a lot. I know this because I got calls from the producer, saying,‘We know it’s not your session, but could you just pop over and give encouragement?’ Well, I live in Harrow, and Watford Town Hall, where we were
■ Caballé as Maria Stuarda at La Scala recording, was easy to get to, so we’d sit and talk in the breaks. It seemed to work.
Being so close to the sound she made was an extraordinary experience. I remember talking to her about breath control, and in particular about how on her recording of Maria Stuarda she sang a phrase so long that I would have thought it impossible. How on earth did she achieve it, I asked her? (This was before I sang the role myself.) She said ‘Put your hand on my diaphragm’ and really she went on to reveal one of her secrets. She took in air to the extent that I was astounded by the amount her diaphragm could move. When she breathed out, she released an enormous amount of air. It was a privilege to share such moments with her, and I felt it to be a mark of her confidence in me that she trusted me like that.
Opera, December 2018