The following are not intended to be a critical assessment of any of the recorded performances, but a personal account of pleasures derived from listening to them. Do send in your own accounts of your favourite Caballe recording, and we'll share them with everyone out there.
The title is listed first, then the major characters and conductor. Also notes on whether live or studio recording, date of performance or release and finally, the record label, item number and approximate price in U.S. dollars to guide you should you wish to go out and purchase the recording. Unless otherwise noted, Caballe of course sings the title role, and the medium is compact disc.
studio recording with the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London, July, 1976. Jose Carreras as Cavaradossi, Ingvar Wixell as Scarpia, Colin Davis conducting. (Philips, 412 885-2, original CD issue in box set with libretto, $35. Recently reissued as a midpriced double CD set without the trimmings, $15). See also "Caballe on Video" section.
My very first Caballe recording, and one of my very first CD purchases. I remember listening to it on the CD player through headphones, shutting out all outside noise and letting the sound just envelop me. I cannot think of a better way to be introduced to a Caballe recording than this...Tosca is of course one of Montserrat's finest roles, and much praise has been made of her amazing breath control and stamina, superbly displayed here in her aria "Vissi d'arte".
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recorded in Rome with the RCA Italiana Opera Orchestra and Chorus, June, 1967 . Montserrat is Violetta, Carlo Bergonzi is Alfredo, Sherrill Milnes is Giorgio Germont, Georges Pretre conducting. (RCA Victor Red Seal, LRC 01012 (2), midprice double CD set without libretto, $15).
A wonderful Traviata set to own, especially at this bargain reissue price. Montserrat is a vocally outstanding Violetta, and she shines in the coloratura demands of the first act. The rest of the cast are also of first order. The set was very highly recommended by most reviewers when it initially appeared in the late 60's, and is also one of the few complete recordings of the opera in this period. Montserrat at this point in her career was as dazzling a Violetta as anyone could hope for: her tones are meltingly pure and honeyed in the slower, more quiet passages and her coloratura is fearless. The tempo in some sections are a bit rushed, but overall an outstanding recording.
recorded with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the John Alldis Choir, 1974. Caballe as Mimi, Placido Domingo is Rodolfo, Sherrill Milnes is Marcello and Judith Blegen is Musetta. Georg Solti conducts. (RCA Red Seal, RCD2-0371, now widely available in North America at a midprice reissue at $15).
A visitor to this site, J. Znidarsic, alerted me towards the end of December '99 about the absence of this recording on my list. The copy I have is actually on cassette tape, a medium I have long since almost completely abandoned. The subsequent return visit to this recording proved to be a satisfying experience: Caballe's singing of one of Puccini's "little women" is as fine a reading of the role as one is likely to come across. Much has been said about her interpretation of the role in this recording, and given the weight of the legendary voice, Caballe's scaling down of her instrument to suit the role is very remarkable. Some passages are sung with delicate sweetness as befits one of Puccini's more uncomplicated characters: in "Mi chiamano Mimi" she says that her story is brief and that she derives enjoyment from little pleasures, and Caballe's heartfelt singing delivers just that. Sometimes a role requires nothing more than tenderness and a gorgeous voice, and here Caballe has that in spades.
recorded in London with the New Philharmonia Orchestra and the Ambrosian Opera Chorus, August, 1976. Caballe in the title role, Jose Carreras as Edgardo, Vicente Sardinero as Enrico, Ann Murray as Alisa. Conducted by Jesus Lopez Cobos. (Philips Classics midprice reissue under the DUO series, 446 551-2, less than $15).
This slow-paced reading of Donizetti's opera is definitely not for the canary-fanciers more familiar with the coloratura pyrotechniques most often heard in the opera houses today. While Caballe's Lucia is decidedly unornamented in its delivery, the simplicity of this Lucia's singing is a welcome change from the sometimes over-the-top ornamentations practiced by others. Montserrat is very ably partnered by the Edgardo of Carreras in his prime, and Raimondo is sung by Samuel Ramey in one of his earlier recordings.
recorded in Strasbourg in August of 1977, EMI Classics, 414 274-2, midpriced at $20. Jose Carreras is Calaf, and Mirella Freni is Liu, Alain Lombard conducting.
This was recorded just a few months before Caballe actually first essayed the role in a San Francisco production with Luciano Pavarotti. While Caballe had the voice then for a great Turandot which she would eventually become, the experience probably was not there yet at the time of recording. While this was critically not too well received, her San Francisco Turandot in November of that year was hailed as a triumph. Much has been made of the uninspired conducting and the rather insipid Liu. I have only heard the highlights CD of this recording. Probably not critically acclaimed, but a decent initial attempt at the role which she will eventually conquer and excel at. Later in her career, she will also record the role of Liu, with the Turandot of Joan Sutherland. Caballe's Liu remains one of the most beautiful and tender modern-day recording of that role.
recorded at Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London in July 1974, EMI Classics, CDM 7 69058 2, deluxe 2 CD set, $40, highlights CD $12. Placido Domingo is Radames, Fiorenza Cossotto is Amneris, Nicolai Ghiaurov is Ramfis, Piro Cappuccilli is Amonasro. Riccardo Muti conducts the Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the New Philharmonia Orchestra. As of 2002, EMI has reissued this recording as a midprice offering, for about a third less the original release price.
SHAWN CHUA provides a personal review of this critically acclaimed recording in the Featured Contributor section.
and of course...
studio recording with Freddie Mercury of Queen, 1988. (Polydor, INT. 837277-2, original release about $20, North American release, about $15). See also "Caballe on Video" section.
Undoubtedly, the album that introduced Caballe to a younger set of fans. An amazing partnership with Freddy Mercury, who was a big Caballe admirer. In the title track "Barcelona", Montserrat glides in through the orchestration like a proverbial train whistle with a sustained crescendo-ing and diminuendo-ing note: with a decent stereo system the effect is akin to a train gliding across, entering from left and exiting to the right, with that perfect sound in between. Purists may scoff at such a partnership, but for someone like me who enjoy both artists, this recording is nothing if not magical. The original release features on the back cover the most playful photo of Montserrat and Mercury...I shall treasure this one forever! Subsequently released in North America after Freddie Mercury's death in the early 90's due to complications from AIDS.
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