It makes sense to evoke today more than ever the review of The New York Times that he praised the first performance of Montserrat Caballé at Carnegie Hall in the 1965 season. She replaced Marilyn Horne in the functions of Lucrezia Borgia, Gaetano Donizetti, and earned the right to an equation: "Callas + Tebaldi = Caballé".
It is appropriate to evoke the resonance of that owner, as it is appropriate to place La Caballé in the coordinates of the great history of the opera. His career may have lasted longer than necessary and beyond the essential, it is even possible that the disorders of his decline have helped to denaturalize it: Montserrat Caballé, a tax evader. Montserrat Caballé, the co-star of a grotesque Christmas lottery advertisement. Montserrat Caballé, already with more historical perspective, the couple of Freddy Mercury, the fat one of the weevil in the anthem of Barcelona.
There would be no caricature of the diva if she herself had not been exposed to the episodes mentioned. Caballé had engendered his own dark and bizarre version, his ruthless nemesis, but it is disproportionate to simplify it to the caprice of social derision.
We do not say that I idolized her as it happened in Naples with Maradona. Idolatrar means that the fraud to the Italian finances of the soccer player became a university subject with all the criteria of indulgence. We say that the revenge to the evasora should consent to a recognition of his artistic greatness and its impact on emotions. Otherwise, we will end up writing Wikipedia: Montserrat Caballé, tax evader and soprano.
We speak from devotion. And from the suggestion that one had to listen to the doorman of the farm where the diva lived a ceremonial expression a few months ago on the occasion of a meeting: "The journalist has arrived". And the journalist, a servant, looks through the living room of an attic near the Sants station, much more sober and modest than the imagination or revanchism suggests: let the fat woman leave her palace.
And he meets an elderly woman over 80 years old who can not get up from her chair and who is disconcerted, incredulous, when she pays for six months in jail. The photo with King Juan Carlos, with Breznev and with three popes, the Prince of Asturias Prize, the grammys, the platinum records, the condescension with Jordi Pujol on top of the corruption of Convergència. "The saints are also wrong," he said, to show solidarity with the express Catalan.
He had not lost his tinkling laugh, perhaps as an exorcism to his misery. Nor his certain air of timelessness. La Caballé was always about fifty years old. When I was young and when I was an old woman. The jet hair concealed the miracle. And the diva picked up her bow as if she were about to sing Butterfly, of Giacomo Puccini More memories surrounded her than friends. And she rested in her seat like an ancient and dispossessed goddess.
Postwar girl, emigrant in Switzerland and in Germany, Soviet idol. And fat, like Pavarotti, fat to a lot of honor, because the two went hungry and because they promised themselves not to happen again. He did not listen to his records the Caballé at home. I do. That do accounts with Treasury. And pay, of course. But to me, when I do the accounts with the Caballé, it turns out that the statement comes back to me. The historic soprano from Barcelona has given us a lot. He has given us everything.
And one way to thank him, or try, was the tribute that was paid at the Teatro Real on December 9, 2014. The curtain did not come down. He did a giant screen in which the passage of Casta diva (Bellini) that Montserrat Caballé played at the Teatro Real in 1971. There were survivors back then among the spectators. They could be identified with pride and lagrimones, although the ovation to the star of the video was unanimous. And more forceful even when the diva herself appeared on stage, in flesh and blood, limping, overwhelmed by the reminder that had been paid.
Singing did not sing, but we got the placebo of their recordings. And we took a promise. "I'll sing again, I'll go back to Madrid, I'll come back with a recital", conceded the Caballé before leaving the stage, using a crutch and the unconditional help of Emilio Sagi.
The stage director presented the tribute, although the protagonists were six sopranos, or six vestals, as some singers appeared in the Real to guard the sacred fire of Montserrat Caballé. And to demonstrate the versatility of the goddess, assuming that chameleon variety that made the Barcelona soprano a Belcantist heroine, a Verdian priestess, a mediator of Strauss, a Wagnerian giant, a missionary of Puccini, a universal myth that took root in Madrid in the season of 1967 with the astonishment of The Traviata.
The big video screen returned the glory to the Caballé. He reminded us of his greatness. He showed that it was urgent to vindicate it far from the details that have blurred or frivolized it in the collective memory. La Caballé was not just a great soprano. It was a vocal phenomenon, an operatic "monster" in the most complex sense that could be suspected. A hegemonic figure whose picturesque and painful agony has driven her away from the altar, but fire and Norma will always be between her vocal cords. Let's pray.
"Templa, oh, Diva, temper these fiery hearts, temper audacious zeal again, spread on earth that peace which you reign in heaven" (Rule, Bellini, first act).