After a private recital given by Montserrat Caballé in a Miami mansion years ago, I was introduced to the luminous Spanish soprano and promptly babbled away idiotically. I said something about how, whenever I feel disappointed that I never heard Callas live, I took great pleasure in knowing that I was around to hear the great Caballé. There was a compliment in there somewhere, but it must have sounded awfully stupid.
I thought of that encounter today when I noticed that April 12 is Caballé's 77th birthday. And that's reason enough to revel in her glorious voice again. I know well the standard criticisms about the soprano -- all tone and technique, no temperament; too limited an actress in opera; etc. But I still think that she produced some of the most viscerally beautiful, supremely stylish singing of the past century. For that, I'll always be grateful. So feliz cumpleaños, Montserrat Caballé.
To mark the occasion, here are two performances that reflect her taste, talent and range -- a bel canto gem, the finale of Bellini's "Il pirata," and the sublime Richard Strauss song, "Morgen":