Spanish Opera Star, Montserrat Caballe Dies at 85

Montserrat Caballé, the celebrated Spanish soprano who won a new generation of fans after singing Barcelona with Freddie Mercury, has died at the age of 85.

A spokesman for Barcelona’s St Pau hospital, Abraham del Moral, confirmed her death early on Saturday.

The famed soprano had a stroke in 2012 and had been admitted last month for a gall bladder problem, according to Spanish media reports.

Born into a working class family in Barcelona, Caballé’s musical talents became apparent early on – she was singing Bach cantatas at the age of seven.

The singer achieved international acclaim in 1965 when she stepped in for another performer in the notoriously difficult role of Lucrezia Borgia in Donizetti’s opera in New York.

Her debut went down in opera history as one of the greatest overnight successes and she went on to tour the world in a career that spanned half a century, starring in 90 opera roles and giving almost 4,000 performances.

In 2004 she was placed sixth in a BBC Music Magazine list of the top 20 sopranos of the recorded era, as voted by opera critics, after Callas, Joan Sutherland, Victoria de los Angeles, Leontyne Price and Birgit Nilsson.

The semi-operatic Barcelona was first released in 1987 and featured at the Olympic Games in 1992, the year after Mercury died. It initially reached no 8 on the UK singles chart, making it one of the Queen singer’s biggest solo hits, before peaking at no 2 on its re-release to coincide with the Olympics.

Her glittering career had its lows, as in December 2015 she was given a six-month suspended jail term and fined more than €250,000 (£180,000) for tax evasion.

Check out her performance of Barcelona with Mercury below.

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