OP1133. LUCREZIA BORGIA, Live Performance, 20 April, 1965, Carnegie Hall, (Caballé's American Début), w.Perlea Cond. American Opera Society Ensemble; Montserrat Caballé, Alain Vanzo, Kostas Paskalis, Jane Berbie, etc.; Caballé, w.Juan Oncina, Lili Chookasian, etc.; Cillario Cond.: Roberto Devereux - Excerpts, 16 Dec., 1965, Carnegie Hall. 2-Opera d’Oro 1200. Superlative sound! Specially priced. - 723723563422
"When Montserrat Caballé sang her first aria, 'Com'č bello' [at her American début, above] there was a perceptible change in atmosphere. It seemed for a moment that everyone had stopped breathing. What registered, of course, was an acute awareness that here was singing of a most unusual sort. It had, to put it simply, the quality of greatness."
- John Gruen, NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE, 21 April, 1965
“Montserrat Caballé's career, which began with a legendary lucky break, would eventually make her one of Spain's greatest sopranos -- equaled in status and reputation only by her fellow Barcelonian, Victoria de los Angeles.
Her full birth name is Maria de Montserrat Viviana Concepción Caballé i Folch. She is named after the famous Catalan monastery of Montserrat. It is said that her parents feared that they would lose her and vowed that if she were born alive and well they would christen her with the monastery's name.
She learned singing at her convent school; at the age of eight, she entered the Conservatorio del Liceo in Barcelona. Her most important teachers were Eugenia Kenny, Conchita Badea, and Napoleone Annovazzi. When she graduated in 1954, she won the Liceo's Gold Medal. Caballé then made her professional début in Madrid in the oratorio EL PESEBRE (The Manger) by the great Catalan cellist Pau (Pablo) Casals. She then went to Italy, where she received a few minor roles at various houses. In 1956, she joined the Basle Opera; she was working her way through the smaller roles when one of the principal singers took ill and she took over the role of Mimě in Puccini's LA BOHÉME. Her unqualified success in that part led to promotion to starring roles, including Pamina, Tosca, Aďda, Marta in Eugene d'Albert's TIEFLAND, and the Richard Strauss roles of Arabella, Chrysothemis (ELEKTRA), and Salome.
She steadily gained a European reputation, singing in Bremen, Milan, Vienna, Barcelona, and Lisbon, taking such diverse roles as Violetta, Tatiana, Dvorák's Armida and Rusalka, and Marie in Berg's WOZZECK. She débuted at La Scala in 1960 as a Flower Maiden in PARSIFAL. She sang in México City in 1964 as Massenet's Manon.
On 20 April, 1965, on extremely short notice, she substituted for the indisposed Marilyn Horne in a concert performance in Donizetti's LUCREZIA BORGIA, achieving a thunderous success and ‘overnight’ super-stardom. She became one of the leading figures in the revival of interest in the bel canto operas of Bellini and Donizetti, many of which were staged especially for her. Caballé's performances as Elizabeth I (ROBERTO DEVEREAUX) and that monarch's rival Mary Queen of Scots (MARIA STUARDA) are legendary. In 1971, she sang a memorable concert performance of MARIA STUARDA in which her fellow Barcelonian José Carreras made his London début, and after that she helped advance his career. She made her Metropolitan Opera début in 1965 as Marguerite in FAUST.
Caballé's career has centered around Verdi's important dramatic roles, but has also embraced the Marschallin (ROSENKAVALIER), the Countess (NOZZE), and Queen Isabella (in the premiere of Leonardo Balada's CRISTOBÁL COLÓN in Barcelona in 1989).
Caballé has had unusual crossover success. In addition to singing on two tracks on an album by New Age composer Vangelis, she is famous for collaborating with the late Freddie Mercury of the rock group Queen, who wrote ‘Exercises in Free Love’ for her. She appeared on his hit album ‘Barcelona’. That album and its primary single rose high on the pop charts.
In 1964, she married Spanish tenor Bernabé Marti. They have two children, Bernabé Marti, Jr. and Montserrat Marti, who is herself a succesful soprano. In 1997, Caballé co-founded an important annual vocal competition in the Principality of Andorra, the Concurs Internacional de Cant Montserrat Caballé. She conducts master classes in conjunction with that competition.”
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com
"In 1985, at age 57, [Vanzo] starred in the Paris Opéra’s historic revival of ROBERT LE DIABLE by Meyerbeer, which the company had not staged for some 90 years….Mady Mesplé, the soprano and a frequent vocal partner, told Le Monde that ‘with [Vanzo’s passing in 2002] a whole page of French lyric history has vanished’."
- Anne Midgette, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 24 Feb., 2002
“A conductor/composer much beset by a series of catastrophes, Jonel Perlea nonetheless ranks high among his contemporaries for the fervor and meticulous attention to sound and form he brought to his interpretations. Interned by the Nazis during WWII and later the victim of a stroke, he prevailed, teaching and conducting with a modified technique employing the left hand only. Recorded evidence causes one to wonder about Perlea's abbreviated time with the Metropolitan Opera, but stories of backstage jealousies suggest the answer.
Perlea was invited to Bucharest to conduct the premiere of an orchestral work he had written and found himself intrigued by the possibility of a conducting career. His official début as a conductor came in Leipzig where he led an opera house performance of the ballet PUPPENFEE and quickly thereafter, the opera HÄNSEL UND GRETEL. Following several other German engagements and a year's service in the Romanian army, Perlea was made first principal conductor at the Bucharest Opera in 1926 and later, the company's music director and director of the city's conservatory. Throughout the ensuing years, Perlea's reputation grew through guest appearances at Europe's leading opera institutions and with its finest orchestras.
On their way from Bucharest to Paris in August 1944, Perlea and his wife were detained by Nazi officials in Vienna because they lacked the necessary visas. For the next year, they were placed in concentration camps, initially in Silesia, later in Kärten. Upon liberation by British troops, Perlea was sent to Italy for repatriation; subsequently he chose to attempt the rebuilding of his career there. A substitute engagement with Rome's Santa Cecilia Orchestra was so well-received that he was given a second concert, this time with his name on the playbills. Another success led to an engagement at La Scala where his TRISTAN UND ISOLDe was acclaimed. Perlea remained a principal conductor at Milan until 1949, also leading performances regularly at Naples.
After his American début with the San Francisco Symphony in 1949, Perlea came to the Metropolitan Opera where his 1 December début in TRISTAN drew high praise. The refined and clearly defined orchestral textures bespoke an exceptional gift for leadership; he supported his singers rather than dominating them. Similar high enthusiasm greeted his RIGOLETTO and CARMEN, but a failure to agree on repertory (the official story) led incoming manager Rudolf Bing to offer Perlea only one production for the following year.
Perlea returned to Italy to continue conducting there, finding ongoing favor with critics and audiences alike and leading several important opera recordings. Now a naturalized U.S. citizen, he was appointed music director of the Connecticut Symphony Orchestra in 1955 and taught at the Manhattan School of Music. A heart attack in 1957 presaged a stroke that left him disabled but not defeated. He continued to direct with his left arm only and in 1967, led a production of TOSCA for the American National Opera hailed as extraordinary for its authority and intensity.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com