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Montserrat Caballe: Casta Diva Hardcover – January 25, 1995

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Editorial Reviews Review

The legendary Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballe is known for her beautiful and distinctive tone, her flawless vocal technique, the leading roles she has undertaken--and for her tendency to cancel her engagements. Here, according to two very respectful admirers, is the scoop on everything from her early life through the various facets of her career, her marriage and family life, and the reasons (usually health-related) for all those cancellations. Well-written and accurate, if a trifle worshipful in places, this is probably the definitive biography (complete with lots of photographs) of one of the greatest divas of our time.

From Publishers Weekly

She's a phenomenon, in stamina as well as in talent: as of 1994, the Catalan soprano, who debuted in 1956, performed 3800 times, and at the age of 62 has only minimally slowed her pace (by contrast, Joan Sutherland, another indefatigable diva, is credited with 1800 performances between 1952 and her retirement in 1990). As this statistic suggests, operagoers have not tired of Caballe as Norma, Tosca, Turandot or Semiramide or in her other signature roles, which makes this lackluster authorized biography all the more disappointing. There are no sustained high Bs here, only an endless curriculum vitae to astonish but not engross readers. The few personal anecdotes included are silly, such as the one about Caballe's first kiss with tenor Bernabe Marti, whom she married in 1964. About her overweight, which the authors address at length, we're told that Caballe has glandular problems. Pullen and Taylor, British freelance music historians, may have done a job competent enough for the diva to sign "every page of the finally revised draft," but opera devotees are likely to find it boring. Photos.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Northeastern; F First Edition edition (January 25, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555532284
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555532284
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,166,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 31, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The above summarises what can be achieved with this volume. A tribute and paean to one of the(or perhaps, THE) greatest sopranos not only of this century but in all history, this is indeed long overdue but once read, is worth every single second of the wait. Chronicling her life story from her childhood in war-torn Spain to her formative years in Basel and Bremen, to the final day when she burst into the international spotlight and thereafter, this book more than serves as a bible for the Caballe fan. Thorough and all-encompassing in its scope, it provides more than just a cursory glance into Caballe's life. However, its ambitious scale does not in any way diminish the value of its "lesser" contents - the intimate moments that are revealed and shared with the readers. This compendium takes on even more weight and profundity especially when Caballe herself read through the entire draft and personally signed every page as authorisation. Filled to the ends and brimming over with more information than one could ever need, this books also scores with its subtle humour laced throughout the book. Discover how true Caballe's sense of humour is with many examples. Appended at the end with a critical biography, in which Caballe had no hand in, the authors air their views and opinions of the recordings made by Caballe, and if I may say so, they are spot on. Why not read this book if you love classical music. Get this book if you love opera. If you love Caballe, then beg, borrow or steal one if you must, by hook or by crook. It will be the only investment that has definite paybacks. A perfect tribute to La Superba, Montserrat Caballe, Prima Donna Assoluta.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Petra Diener on February 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Maria Callas is quoted in this book as advising Caballe that "When you stop arousing controversy, Montserrat, go home. Until then, let the cat fight the dogs". Probably the Spanish soprano didn't need Callas' advice in this regard, but in any event, like all great artists, she has aroused great passion and divided opinion. Few, however, who know anything about the art of great singing, would deny her place as one of the greats of the 20th Century. My admiration for her is based, first and foremost, on the artistry: her's was one of the most beautiful voices, but rarely did she just rely on this fact. Rather, she would time and again find the very centre of a character through imaginative phrasing and peerless use of colour and shading. Vocal acuity was also a notable feature of her art - one that critics more and more are recognising when they return to her recordings and find within them levels of artistry that they took somewhat for granted in the past.
For such an important singer, we have waited a long time for a biography. It might have been expected that she, like most singers, would have received a 'pop' version of a book, one that skated over the surface and which, once read,would be left to languish on the shelf pining for a more detailed and serious treatment to come along by someone with an historical perspective in which to place the artist's contribution to the great lyric tradition. What is impressive, however, is that the Spanish soprano has been fortunate to receive a worthy treatment in this, the very first major book about her.
In my opinion (and in the views of the several friends I have leant it to), Pullen and Taylor's biography manages to be both entertaining and packed with important detail.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By W. Field on October 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
A better editor perhaps would have helped streamline this extremely extensive biography of Caballe's carreer. It is a chronicle of almost every appearance she ever made, though there is little analytical detail of even her most legendary and important performances. The word that comes to mind is "homogenized" - all the stories and information just seem to run together year after year. More anecdotes, deeper analysis of performances, and cutting of much extraneous text would have made this a better read. There are still some interesting stories, though I did have the feeling throughout that the authors didn't want to include any negative remarks regarding collegues, impressarios, or opera companies unless it was absolutely neccessary. That might be a fair and safe way to write, but it is not very interesting in a carrer retrospective like this. However, better that we have at least this less than perfect document (which, incidentally, has been totally approved and authorized by Caballe herself)than to have nothing at all, since this is really the only biography available about her entire carreer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. Culp on November 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase

First it has to be said that if you are at all interested in Montserrat Caballe, this is the only book currently available. And it's not a bad one, either. It just has some flaws.

Primary of which is the pedantic writing style, especially in the early sections where the authors offer the results of their considerable research into the soprano's family history. Simple declarative sentences seem alien to them. There are pages of long, convoluted sentences - many thirty and forty words long - replete with modifiers and phraseology reminiscent of 1930's European writing. I literally lost count of how many times the phrase "in the event" occurred.

Like many biographers who have done extensive research on their subject, the authors seem determined to reveal everything they have learned, however unnecessary. The result is the familiar "and-then-she-sang" recitation of every performance the lady ever gave, regardless of whether it adds anything to an understanding of her as a person. To their credit, however, this is often accompanied by a great deal of interesting detail and even some delightful gossip.

When describing Caballe's personal experiences, the sentences flow naturally and the narrative takes on life. We see her grow from a largely passive young girl, very thin from years of malnutrition, to a strong, self assured woman often self-effacing and filled with humor, but never unaware of her own value. Caballe's rapidly increasing weight problem, which apparently began as a result of glucose injections intended to counteract her malnutrition, was eventually diagnosed as a glandular problem but is mentioned only in passing. It would have been interesting to have learned how (or whether) this affected her personally.
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