Montserrat Caballe, Spanish Opera Singer Famed for ‘Barcelona’ Duet, Dies at 85

October 7, 2018 Updated: October 7, 2018

BARCELONA—Montserrat Caballe, who put opera onto the pop charts by singing the song “Barcelona” with Freddie Mercury three decades ago, died Oct. 6 at the age of 85.

The Spanish soprano, who was born in the Catalan capital, had been in poor health for a number of years and was hospitalized in mid-September, a hospital official said. She died at Sant Pau hospital in Barcelona.

The Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house in Barcelona, where Caballe performed more than 200 times, described her as “one of the most important sopranos in history.”

Spanish tenor Jose Carreras said she possessed a voice of great range, combined with a flawless technique.

“Of all the sopranos I’ve heard live in the theater, I’ve never heard anyone singing like Caballe,” Carreras said in an interview with Catalunya Radio.

“She went beyond opera and classical music showing that opera singers are not just limited to the opera houses but go way beyond that,” Christina Sheppelmann, the Liceu’s artistic director, told reporters on Oct. 6 in Barcelona.

Caballe was considered one of the finest modern exponents of the ‘bel canto repertoire,’ Spain’s Culture Minister Jose Guirao said.

“Her loss leaves a huge void,” he said.

Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballe performs
Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballe performs during a concert in Santander, in northern Spain, on Dec. 9, 2006. (Reuters/Victor Fraile/File Photo)

Caballe’s almost 60-year international career took her from Basel to New York and beyond.

She began in the Swiss city in 1956, as Mimi in La Bohème, then joined the Bremen Opera, where she sang from 1959 to 1962, in a wide variety of roles.

Wider international recognition came in 1965, when she appeared in a performance of Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia at Carnegie Hall in New York. The performance won her great acclaim from the public and made her an overnight sensation.

Her success led to her debut that same year at the Metropolitan Opera, as Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust.

Her last performance took place in the Catalan town of Cambrills in August 2014.

By Pilar Suarez