OP3052. NORMA, Live Performance, 17 March, 1977, w.Muti Cond. Vienna Staatsoper Ensemble; Montserrat Caballé, Fiorenza Cossotto, Carlo Cossutta, Luigi Roni, etc. (Austria) 2-Exclusive EX93T78/79. [A spacious, brilliant recording.] Long out-of-print, final copy!
“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 Basel 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 Mimì in Puccini's LA BOHÉME. Her unqualified success in that part led to promotion to starring roles, including Pamina, Tosca, Aïda, 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
“After me, there is only Caballé.”
- Zinka Milanov, as quoted in Leonardo A. Ciampa’s THE TWILIGHT OF BELCANTO, p.82
“While best known for the fiery, scenery-chewing Verdi roles such as Azucena, Amneris, Lady Macbeth, and Eboli, Fiorenza Cossotto was also a prominent performer of bel canto parts such as Rosina in Rossini's BARBIERE, Leonora in LA FAVORITA, and Adalgisa in NORMA. Such large and powerful mezzo voices, particularly with a secure top, are rare compared to the lyric mezzo, and from the late 1960s through the early 1980s, she was THE Verdi mezzo, the successor to Simionato and the predecessor to Zajick.”
- Anne Feeney, allmusic.com
“Riccardo Muti studied philosophy at Naples University and, at the Naples Conservatory, composition with Jacopo Napoli and Nino Rota and piano with Vincenzo Vitale. He then undertook further study at the Milan Conservatory: composition with Bruno Bettinelli and conducting with Antonino Votto (a former assistant of Toscanini and a major presence at La Scala, Milan). Having participated in Franco Ferrara’s conducting seminars in Venice in 1965, Muti was the first Italian to win the Guido Cantelli Conducting Competition, held in Milan, in 1967. This success resulted in numerous invitations to appear as a guest conductor, and in 1968 he accompanied the Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter at the Maggio Musicale in Florence, in addition making his conducting début with Italian Radio. The following year he was appointed as chief conductor of the Maggio Musicale, Florence, a post which he held until 1980. He made his début at La Scala, Milan, conducting an orchestral concert, in 1970, and at the Salzburg Festival in 1971, conducting a new production of Donizetti’s DON PASQUALE.
In Muti’s career, 1972 proved to be a seminal year: in addition to making his débuts with the Berlin Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestras he conducted for the first time the New Philharmonia Orchestra, subsequently being invited to become this orchestra’s chief conductor in succession to Otto Klemperer. He took up this position in 1973, being named as the orchestra’s music director in 1979 and its conductor laureate in 1982. Muti first conducted at the Vienna State Opera in 1973 and during the following year made his début with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; here he led a production of Verdi’s AÏDA, of which a studio recording was simultaneously made by EMI. Between 1980 and 1992 he was chief conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra in succession to Eugene Ormandy, having been the orchestra’s principal guest conductor from 1975. With the Philadelphia he recorded an extensive repertoire for EMI which included all of the symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms and Scriabin, Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphonies Nos 4, 5, and 6, as well as numerous miscellaneous works.
Muti took up the position of chief conductor of La Scala, Milan—arguably the most important musical position in Italy—in 1986 and conducted a notably catholic repertoire with this distinguished company prior to his departure in 2005. In addition to the staple operas of the repertoire by Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, and Wagner, he led memorable revivals of lesser-known works by, amongst others, Cherubini, Gluck, Rossini and Spontini. Many of these productions were televised by RAI, the principal Italian broadcasting organisation, and have subsequently appeared on DVD. Muti also developed the concert-giving and recording activity of La Scala’s orchestra, the La Scala Filarmonica (La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra), establishing it as the finest orchestra in Italy with an original repertoire and a finely-honed playing style. Alongside his work in Milan Muti also developed an especially close relationship with the Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducting the concerts to mark (in 1992) the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of this orchestra’s founding, (in 1996) the Austrian millennium, and (in 1998) the five hundredth anniversary of the Vienna Hofmusikkapelle. He has also conducted the orchestra’s New Year’s Day concerts four times to date. With the Vienna Philharmonic he has recorded the three operas by Mozart to libretti by Lorenzo da Ponte, and the complete symphonies of Schubert and Schumann.
Other orchestras with which Muti appears regularly include the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestre National of Radio France. In addition to his operatic work in Milan and Vienna he has conducted opera in Philadelphia, New York, Munich, London and at the Ravenna Festival, where his direction of Bellini’s NORMA has been especially successful. Muti has received numerous honours, including the Grand Cross of the Italian Republic and the Grand Silver Cross of the Austrian Republic, and was made a member of the Légion d’honneur by the French Republic. In 1993 he conducted the concert to mark the reopening of the La Fenice opera house in Venice.
In Muti the great Italian tradition exemplified by Toscanini is continued. He has an extraordinary charisma as a conductor, presenting an immaculate figure on the podium, where his svelte appearance is matched by a musical intelligence of the highest calibre. His baton technique is extremely clear, and is complemented by a preference for intensely dramatic interpretations, which pays particular dividends in the opera house. His musical judgement is of the finest and he secures playing of great technical accuracy as well as of rich sonority. Muti has shown a probing sense of inquiry in terms of the repertoire that he conducts, which includes a considerable amount of twentieth-century music, and has consistently refused to compromise his artistic decisions and ideals for commercial or political reasons. His discography is large, and includes many unofficial as well as legitimate commercial recordings. It is equally strong in both the symphonic and operatic fields.”
- David Patmore, Naxos' A–Z of Conductors