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Luis Angel Catoni / Shawn Chua / Claudia Weber / Tim Evans

TIM EVANS (TIMANDSONNY@aol.com) saw Caballe perform twice at Birmingham's Symphony Hall (UK)


One year before her sixtieth birthday, La Superba made her first visit to Birmingham's Symphony Hall. Here in one of Europe's premier concert venues her performance belied her years and emphasized her reputation as one of the greatest prima donnas of the twentieth century.

Her first two arias, Rossini's "L'ora fatal s'appressa" and "Di tanti palpiti" demonstrated both her ability in coloratura and the achingly beautiful pianissimo notes for which she has become legendary. Her rendition of Cilea's "Io son l'umile ancella" brought the house to its feet because of the sheer beauty of its interpretation and when this remarkable woman had completed Puccini's "O mio babbino caro", it seemed that the applause would never stop. The performance ended with Massenet's "Il est doux, il est bon" from Heriodade, underlining Madame Caballe's commitment to new material.

But perhaps the jewel in the crown of this concert was Desdemona's aria from Otello. So perfect was the phrasing and so ravishingly beautiful was the voice, that few were left not wiping tears from their eyes. This concert underlined the status of Montserrat Caballe as one of the greatest sopranos of the modern era.