The great Catalan soprano died Oct 6. She came to international fame when she substituted for Marilyn Horne in a performance of Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia at Carnegie Hall. Though her voice was basically lyric in character, she was able by virtue of a secure vocal technique to sing bel canto roles, the big Verdi parts, and even Richard Strauss. She recorded both the title role in Norma and Adalgisa in the same opera – a part usually sung by a mezzo. She was best known for her ethereal pianissimi that put her in the same league as Milanov, though she (Caballé) did not have the rich velvet sound in her middle voice that characterized her older colleague. Her singing says all that is needed about her exceptional excellence. Below are a few examples of her art.

Egli non riede ancora is from Act 1 scene 2 of Verdi’s Il Corsaro. This aria is sung by Medora, the seconda donna of the opera. Nevertheless, it’s far and away the best music for soprano in the opera. This recording is from 1967.

D’amor sull’ali rosee is from a 1968 performance in Florence. She never made a studio recording of Il Trovatore, an opera well suited for her voice.

Ebben ne andro lontana from Catalani’s La Wally shows all the soprano’s strengths. Pathos, control, and an exquisite vocal line are delivered as required by this touching aria. The recording was made in 1976.

As mentioned above Caballé both of the female leads in Norma. This recording of Casta diva is from a 1978 performance. It’s a fine effort that her audience obviously appreciated. All that’s lacking is a fuller sound.

 Depuis le jour from Charpentier’s Louise is given a fully expressive reading in this studio recording. As far as I know, she never sang the role in a staged production. Vocally she’d have been superb in the part, but histrionically the role was best avoided. I can’t think of anyone who could have sung the aria better.

Ah, non credea mirarti from Bellini’s La Sonnambula is on the shortlist for the most beautiful melody yet written.  Her singing here shows why she was one of the truly great sopranos of the last century. There is no one now alive who can match her for versatility, artistry, and sheer beauty of sound. A prima donna assoluta.