When soprano Montserrat Caballé sang an earth-trembling, 16-second top B during a Verdi epic

6 April 2021, 16:37 | Updated: 6 April 2021, 16:53

When Montserrat Caballé sang a 16-second-long high B at the Met Opera
When Montserrat Caballé sang a 16-second-long high B at the Met Opera. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

The time Montserrat Caballé drove a Met Opera audience wild with an impossibly long virtuosic outburst.

This is one of those live music moments that hits you right between the eyes.

In 1972, legendary Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé sang Elisabetta of Valois in a production of Verdi’s Don Carlo at the New York Met.

In the opera’s libretto, Elisabetta’s final note lasts for just four beats – already a tough enough feat, while a soprano is already near the very top of her range.

But Caballé saw the bar-long high B and raised Verdi 10 bars.

In the final performance, her high B on ‘ciel’, the last word of the opera, lasted a full 16 seconds, soaring throughout the entire coda and accompanying the orchestra right up to their final chord.

It’s one of music history’s greatest virtuosic outbursts. Have a listen in the video below.

Read more: Watch Montserrat Caballé and Freddie Mercury duet at the Barcelona Olympics >

The performance, recorded in April of 1972 at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, was conducted by Francesco Molinari-Pradelli, with Italian tenor Franco Corelli as Don Carlo.

You can just imagine the feeling in the audience that night. In the video, you can hear that the Met’s thousands-strong audience couldn’t even wait for the orchestra to finish before roaring in utter delight at the music.

Caballé was known for her performance of Italian opera, her intensely expressive, rich voice lending itself perfectly to the works of Verdi and Puccini.

The Spanish opera star, known to her fans as La Superba, also famously duetted with Freddie Mercury for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Their original song ‘Barcelona’, a hit single when it was released in 1988, brought opera to a new audience and is still one of the most iconic marriages of pop and opera.

Montserrat Caballé, who died on 6 October 2018, aged 85, is remembered for her supernatural control, vocal fireworks and peerless contribution to opera. Thank you for the music...

Buy the official Met Opera recording of Don Carlo here on Amazon.