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Montserrat Caballe “Casta diva” Norma Orange 1974

January 25, 2010

Caballe gives definity to each note in the ornaments as at 0:18 and 0:30. Each note can be distinguished from the previous one; it is not merely a smere of sound-paint but a clearly articulated shape. Unfortunately, the space that this performance was given in does a disservice to that clarity and makes it appear more smudged than this crystalline sound actually is. At 1:19 there is a note which grows from this sort of ethereal sound into something which is very slightly more tangible and pure, though the line retains its dream-like quality. The attack (if you can even call it that when you are dealing with sounds this delicate) of the top note of the figure at 2:28 has a quality which I can only connect to a well-articulated note on the flute. 4:52 the sound drops to such a low volume, (while maintaing it’s immaculate quality) that it is almost literally unbelievable.

Glad to be listening with you.

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5 comments

  1. We were lucky enough to be there. The mistral was blowing hard and the opera started late. It was a memorable performance with Jon Vickers singing Pollione.


  2. Does anyone know who was conducting this performance?


    • The director was Pierre Jourdan.


  3. Have you ever seen Caballè’s norma at Bolshoi?
    She’s great. At the end of Casta Diva she obtain 2.20 minute of applause, and she has to stop them.

    Take a look here:


  4. I heard this woman sing a Verdi and Puccini aria program with the Minnesota Orchestra in 1978. I was still in high school. I checked out her recording of the Brahms Requiem from the public library to prepare for the concert. I remember thinking, “Yes, that’s a beautiful voice.” Other than that, she was unknown to me, although a violist I knew in the orchestra told me earlier in the week that she was “superb”.

    I was not prepared for what I heard. Suffice it to say that I was completely overwhelmed by the experience. It remains the greatest singing I have ever heard. She quickly became my favorite contemporary singer. The voice had a majesty that I had not suspected. A sort of “spray” of resonance surrounded a solid core of sound, which reminded me of a diamond. It was as solid as a rock. The pianissimi were ravishing, they seemed to hover in the air above and beyond her. The high notes were thrilling. Her chest tones I also enjoyed. Even in my youthful naivety I sensed her technique was stupendous. I remember thinking, “I bet her teacher is proud of her!”

    She wore a black dress with a large red flower in the center of it. You could have hidden another person underneath it. She made few gestures, but they worked well. Although I loved the sensuous beauty of Leontyne Price’s timbre (I heard her later)I am prepared to say that Madame Caballe had the greatest instrument I’ve heard.

    David



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