12.04.2022 - 09:32
April 12 would have been Montserrat Caballé’s 89th birthday, and Google has honoured the Catalan operatic soprano in today’s Doodle. Google Doodles are temporary alterations to the popular search engine’s logo which pay homage to a particular person, group, or event, for various reasons. Today’s animated theme is the famous Catalan opera singer, who took to the stage in the world’s top concert halls in a career that spanned six decades.
Caballé was born on 12 April 1933 and started her musical career early at the Liceu Conservatory in Barcelona, which she then had to leave due to her father’s poor health. Still, she continued her studies, and in the early 1950s she met influential soprano singers who would greatly influence her professional life such as Eugenia Kemmeny, Conxita Badia and Napoleone Annovazzi. Caballé’s big break at Liceu came about in 1962 when she played Richard Strauss’ ‘Arabella.’ This is also when she passed by the Vienna and Bremen with her rendition of Donna Elvira in ‘Don Giovanni.’
Her rise to stardom was consolidated in 1965 when she was already internationally renowned at Carnegie Hall in New York, when she substituted Marilyn Horn in ‘Lucrezia Borgia’ of Gaetano Donizetti – a composer whose work Caballé would interpret a large span of, along with others by Giuseppe Verdi. Also in the mid-’60s Caballé would debut at the Metropolitan Opera, while in the ’70s she would cross the Atlantic for her first performance at La Scala in Milan and then at the Convent Garden in London.
Throughout her career, Caballé received many awards and distinctions, including the Golden Medal from the Liceu theater (1996), the Golden Medal from the Catalan government (1982), the Princess of Asturias Awards (1991). In the early 2000s, after some time away from the stage for health issues, she was also the recipient of Catalonia’s National Music Prize. She passed away in 2018 after spending a short period in hospital with bladder complications.
‘Barcelona’ with Freddie Mercury
What Caballé is perhaps most known for outside of the operatic world is her performance with Queen frontman Freddie Mercury for the song ‘Barcelona,’ which went on to become the anthem of the 1992 Olympic Games, held in the Catalan capital. The two, who had a close relationship and had even worked on an album together, were however unable to perform the song together at the sports event, however, due to Mercury’s untimely death.
The British singer was passionate about opera and had spoken publicly of his admiration for the soprano singer Caballé before the pair had ever met. Eventually, a meeting was set up where they played music and swapped ideas, and a close connection was instantly established. It didn’t take long for the English star to compose a song for them both to perform together in honour of the city where Caballé was born and raised. Mercury stated in interviews that to perform alongside Caballé was “a dream come true.”
The song was officially presented as the Olympic anthem in a concert at the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc in October 1988. The event was put on to celebrate the arrival of the Olympic flag from Seoul. In fact, the musical score accompanying the light show that the Magic Fountain normally performs includes a part of the song ‘Barcelona’ in it. Sadly, though, this was also to be the site of Freddie Mercury’s last ever public performance, as he stopped touring and playing concerts in the final few years before his death.