Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballe had been in hospital since last month. (AP: Eckehard Schulz)
Spanish opera singer Montserrat Caballe, who dueted with Freddie Mercury on the song Barcelona, has died. She was 85.
- Montserrat Caballe was admired for her purity of voice
- She was convicted of tax fraud in 2015 and given a suspended sentence of six months
- Spanish media reports Caballe was admitted to hospital for a gall bladder problem
The soprano was renowned for her bel canto technique and her interpretations of the roles of Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti.
Caballe died early on Saturday at Hospital San Pau in Barcelona, hospital spokesman Abraham del Moral said.
Mr del Moral said Caballe’s family requested the cause of death not be released, adding that she had been in the hospital since September.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a tweet: “A great ambassador of our country has died”.
“Her voice and tenderness will remain with us forever.”
Spanish media reported Caballe was admitted to hospital last month because of a gall bladder problem.
Opera prodigy had humble beginnings and a ‘lucky break’
Born into a working class family in Barcelona, Caballe unveiled her musical talents early on, singing Bach cantatas at the age of seven.
In her almost unlimited repertoire, she starred in 90 opera roles with nearly 4,000 stage performances.
In 1964, Caballe gave a highly praised performance of Jules Masenet’s “Manon” in Mexico City, but it was a year later in New York that a lucky break launched her on the road to international stardom.
On short notice, Caballe stood in for indisposed American soprano Marilyn Horne in a concert performance in Donizetti’s “Lucrezia Borgia” at New York’s Carnegie Hall and achieved a thunderous success.
It opened the doors to all the major opera venues around the world.
Caballe, left, performs on stage with her daughter Montserrat Marti in 2006. (AP: Georgios Kefalas)
Her 1969 performance in Verdi’s “Don Carlo” became famous for her “la” on the final “ah” at the very end of the opera, which lasted for more than 20 bars up, driving the audience wild with delight.
She was particularly admired for her purity of voice, vocal shadings and exquisite pianissimos.
Foray into pop music and tax fraud
In a brief excursion into pop music, Caballe’s duet Barcelona with Queen’s Freddie Mercury was a hit single in 1987, accompanied by an album of the same name.
The title track later became the anthem of the 1992 Summer Olympics in the city.
In 1997, she sang on two tracks on an album by New Age composer Vangelis.
In 2015, Caballe was convicted of tax fraud and was given a suspended sentence of six months in prison.
She had failed to pay the Spanish treasury more than 500,000 euros ($817,000) in taxes on her earnings.
Caballe established a foundation for needy children in Barcelona, dedicated herself to various charities and was a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.
In 1964, she married Spanish tenor Bernabe Marti.
They had two children, Bernabe Marti Jr, and Montserrat Marti, herself a successful soprano.