During the three decades between 1965 and 1995, the great Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé performed at Carnegie Hall more than 25 times. Today, on the occasion of her 80th birthday, our Museum Director and Archivist Gino Francesconi recalls a couple of moments from her near half-century association with the Hall.
During Carnegie Hall's 100th anniversary, we wrote to musicians and people all over the world, asking them to write something about the Hall in honor of its 100th birthday. Montserrat Caballé wrote, "My dearest Carnegie Hall, I had the great honour of entering history through your wonderful stage, this was back in 1965, I was able to send my sound into your miraculous space, and it was magic. A miracle happened, a miracle which changed my musical life into glory and success." Isn't that wonderful?
Letter from Montserrat Caballé to Carnegie Hall honoring the 100th anniversary of the Hall's opening. Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.
I have my own personal moment with her in terms of a miracle happening. One of my special treats was sometimes to walk out onto the stage behind one of the baffles during a performance to experience it right there. One time during a benefit performance, Ms. Caballé was being conducted by James Levine with a group of New York City freelance musicians. She was singing an aria by Giuseppe Verdi, "Pace, pace." At one point, her voice was hovering over the orchestra like a hummingbird. It was an extraordinary moment. I looked across the orchestra and I could see this bass player, a real tough New Yorker who used to complain about everything. I looked over at him. He was watching her with a smile on his face and a tear coming down his cheek. It was one of the most moving moments I ever experienced. That was the power of her voice.
Related: Hall History