I have worked many times with Montserrat as a conductor. The first time, in Rome, in 1970, where we did Agnese di Hohenstaufen, of Spontini, of which I have a beautiful memory. But our first big collaboration was, in 1973, in the recording of Aida, of Verdi, in London, where she sang an Aida that for me is still the greatest interpretation of that role today. I must remember one detail. The aria "O cieli azzurri", of the third act, with that famous Doo, almost at the end, recorded it all at once, from beginning to end, and without cuts or repetitions. That aria is a miracle of the greatness of Montserrat's art. Then we did together Cavalleria Rusticana, by Mascagni, I Puritani, by Bellini, and, above all, an extraordinary Rule, by the same composer, at the Vienna State Opera.
Montserrat has been not only one of the last great singers in the history of singing, but also a great professional. With me he always worked with a very unusual dedication today. I have always loved his singing and his voice. Right now I'm in Chicago, where I directed a concert last night to the Symphony, but they told me that in Italy all the radio stations were broadcasting that "O cieli azzurri" Aida that we recorded together, and where Montserrat entered the studio as a queen, as a great Spanish queen. He sang it from beginning to end and ascended to that overbearing Do as if it were the wake of a star. I think that if we look at the sky today, that Do would be the wake of Montserrat in heaven. It is a great mourning and pain for me. A loss for the world of opera. Montserrat was one of the last divas in a positive and never negative sense. She was truly divine. Fortunately, his recordings remain as a memory of a great woman.
Riccardo Muti is a conductor