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Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts 1991
The artists who, as a group, receive this Award, personify with their immense musical talent a moment of exceptional brilliance in our lyrical music, bearing the name of Spain everywhere and encouraging a growing love of music across the whole of society.
Victoria de los Ángeles
Victoria de los Ángeles López García (Barcelona, Spain, 1923 – 2005) gave her first concert in 1941 at the Palau de la Música in Barcelona and, in 1947, won the Grand Prix at the International Singing Contest in Geneva. She also triumphed at Covent Garden and the Albert Hall in London and at La Scala in Milan. She made her debut at the Carnegie Hall in New York in October 1950, while in 1951 she gave her first performance at the Metropolitan Opera House, playing Margarita in Gounod’s Faust and Madame Butterfly. She sang in her last opera, Pelléas et Mélisande, before retiring in 1979. Nonetheless, she continued to give recitals and reappeared in May 1985 at Madrid’s Teatro Real, with great acclaim. In 1986, she performed in Poland, South America, Central America and Japan. In 1987, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Barcelona. She obtained the Grand Prix of the French Academy for the best record in 1953, 1955 and 1956. She is also holder of the Gold Medal of the Gran Liceo of Barcelona (1955), the Gold Medal of the City of Barcelona (1958), the Sash of the Civil Order of Alfonso X the Wise (1962) and the 1978 National Prize for Music.
Teresa Berganza (Madrid, Spain, 1933 – 2022) studied music at the Madrid Conservatory under maestros such as Gerardo Gombau and Jesús Guridi, and singing under Lola Rodríguez Aragón. In 1957, she gave her first recital at the Madrid Ateneo, sang Don Qujote by Massenet with the great Bulgarian bass Boris Christoff in Milan and took part in a film version of L'italiana in Algeri for the RAI, before winning international acclaim at the Aix-en-Provence Festival as Dorabella in Così fan tutte, under the baton of Hans Rosbaud. The following year she made her debut at Glyndebourne in Le nozze di Figaro and played Neris in Medea at the Dallas Opera, where she shared the stage with the legendary María Callas.
A specialist in Mozart and a pioneer in the recovery of Rossini, her performances as Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, Dorabella in Così fan tutte and Sesto in La Clemenza di Tito have served as an example for future generations, and her Isabella in L’italiana in Algeri, Angelina in La Cenerentola and Rosina in Il barbieri di Siviglia have returned their authentic vocality to these roles. Her 1977 performance in Edinburgh, under the baton of Claudio Abbado, of a Carmen stripped of all clichés and absolutely faithful to the score stands out as a milestone in the history of opera performance. She has performed at all the most prestigious theatres and concert halls (Vienna, La Scala, the Met, San Francisco, the Paris Opera, the Festival of Salzburg), with conductors such as Abbado, Ansermet, Barenboim, Giulini, Karajan, Kondrashin, Kubelik, Leppard, Maazel, Markevitch, Munch, Muti, Plasson, Rudel, Solti and Von Dohnányi. The Spanish conductors with whom she has worked include Argenta, Colomer, Garcia Asensio, Garcia Navarro, López Cobos and Ros Marbá. She has likewise worked with stage directors such as Ebert, Faggioni, De Filipp, Lavelli, Mansouri, Pizzi, Ponnelle, Rennert, Schenk, Strehler, Wallmann and Zeffirelli. Her recitals constitute veritable theatrical displays in which music, words and gestures make up a whole.
Her vast repertoire ranges from the Italian baroque masters (Monteverdi, Cavalli) to 20th-century composers, with particular attention to Spanish music of all periods. She has also interpreted songs by Latin American composers, German lieder and is an expert in the French mèlodie, from Berlioz and Fauré to Hahn and Ravel. She has likewise contributed decisively to the recovery of Spanish zarzuela. Her broad-ranging list of recordings include outstanding renderings of Haendel’s Alcina; La clemenza di Tito, Così fan tutte and Le nozze di Figaro by Mozart; La vida breve and El amor brujo by Falla; Offenbach’s La Périchole; Massenet’s Don Quijote; Il barbiere di Siviglia, L'italiana in Algeria and La Cenerentola by Rossini; Bizet’s Carmen; Pulcinella by Stravinsky; Ravel’s Schéhérezade; Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater; and Vivaldi’s Gloria. Her recitals have received numerous recording awards.
In 1995, she was unanimously elected a Full Member of Madrid’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, being both the first woman and the first singer to join this prestigious institution. She was also a Member of the Instituto de España and commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters. In 2005 she celebrated fifty years in the profession recording the disc Brava Berganza!.
Montserrat Concepción Bibiana Caballé (Barcelona, Spain, 1933 – 2018) sang for the first time at the Gran Teatro del Liceo, on 13th April 1953, in an end-of-term gala, in which she performed Il ciarlatano. In 1957, she took the leading role in the Magic Flute at the Canton Opera House in Basel and in November of the same year sang La Bohème. She has performed in the United States, France, Germany and other countries, always returning to Barcelona to do the opera season at the Liceo. She has taken part in a great many concerts at the world’s most important venues. The production of Lucrezia Borgia at Carnegie Hall in New York in 1965, and Faust, at the Metropolitan Opera House, were the definitive confirmation of her rise to fame. Little by little she expanded her repertoire with works such as La traviata, Salome, Elizabeth I, Turandot, La favorita, Adriana Lecouvreur, La serva padrona, Così fan tutte, Lucrezia Borgia, Norma, Aida and others. Her most outstanding success was in 1984 at Carnegie Hall, New York, where she was applauded continuously for almost half an hour. The applause also lasted many minutes at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. On 22nd April 1988, she was paid tribute on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of her official presentation at the Teatro de la Zarzuela and her 55th birthday, in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Sofia. She has performed over eighty opera characters, ranging from baroque opera to Verdi, Wagner, Puccini and Richard Strauss. She has played such different roles as Norma, Salome, Violeta, la Marschallin, Semiaramide and Isolda. She has also performed popular Spanish songs. Moreover, she made an excursion into the rock music world alongside the singer and composer Freddie Mercury with Barcelona, which became the anthem for the 1992 Olympic Games.
In recent years, she has devoted her time to diverse charitable activities. She was a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and has created a foundation to help children in need in Barcelona. She was the holder of numerous awards and trophies such as the Medal of the Liceo (1966), the Sash of Isabella the Catholic (1966), best singer in the world in New York (1968), the Golden Key of Barcelona, the Paris Lyrical Record Academy Prize (1971), the Gold Medal for Theatre (1972), the Reus Concert Association Gold Medal (1972), the Spanish National Theatre Prize (1971), the Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts (1973), the Gold Medal of the Catalan Regional Government (1982), commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters (1986) and the Gold Medal of Madrid (1988).
José Carreras (Barcelona, Spain, 1946) studied music in Barcelona. He commenced his professional career in 1970 at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, performing in Nabuco and Lucrezia Borgia. He made his debut at a very young age at the most important theatres and festivals worldwide, such as the Teatro alla Scala in Milan (Un ballo in maschera, 1975); the Metropolitan Opera House in New York (Tosca, 1974); the San Francisco Opera (La boheme, 1973); Vienna’s Staatsoper (Rigoletto, 1974); the Royal Opera House in London (La traviata, 1974); the Munich Opera (Tosca, 1974); the Chicago Opera (Un ballo in maschera, 1976); Salzburg (Don Carlo, 1976); Aix en Provence (Roberto Devereux, 1977); Edinburgh (Réquiem by Verdi, 1982) and Verona (Carmen, 1984), among others. He has collaborated with the most prestigious orchestral directors such as Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti, Lorin Maazel, Riccardo Chailly, Colin Davis, Giuseppe Sinopoli, James Levine, Carlos Maria Giulini, Leonard Bernstein and Zubin Metha. He has also worked with stage directors like Franco Zeffirelli, Jean Pierre Ponnelle, Giorgio Strehler, Luigi Comencini, Harold Prince, et cetera. His repertoire comprises over sixty works, outstanding among which are: Andrea Chénier, La boheme, Tosca, Werther, Don Carlo, Carmen, La forza del destino, I Pagliacci, L’elisir D’amore and Un ballo in maschera.
Worth highlighting alongside his opera performances are the frequent recitals he has given in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall and the Avery Fisher Hall in New York; the Royal Festival Hall, the Barbican Hall and the Royal Albert Hall in London; the Salle Pleyel in Paris; the Musikverein and Konzerthaus in Vienna; the Berlin Philharmonie; the Suntory Hall and NHK Hall in Tokyo; the Grosses Festspielhaus in Salzburg; the Philharmonie and Hercules Saal in Munich; the Palau de la Música in Barcelona; the Teatro Real in Madrid; and the Accademia Santa Cecilia in Rome. His broad-ranging repertoire in this field includes over 600 songs of the most varied styles from baroque to contemporary music. He has made more than 150 recordings, noteworthy among which are 50 full operas, oratorios, classical recitals as well as popular music. He has received numerous gold and platinum discs worldwide. José Carreras has starred in several filmed operas for television, the cinema and video. These include: La boheme, I Lombardi, Andrea Chénier, Turandot, Carmen, Verdi’s Réquiem, Don Carlo, La forza del destino, Stiffelio, Fedora and Jerusalem. He has also played the screen role of Julián Gayarre in romanza final. His film, A Life Story, nominated for an Oscar, won the International Emmy award in 1993. In 1992 he was named Music Director of the Barcelona Olympic Games. Along with his colleagues Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti, he gave two extraordinary concerts in Rome in 1990 and in Los Angeles in 1994 that were seen by more than two thousand million spectators from every continent that had an unprecedented impact on the world of song. Besides his professional activities, since 1988 he has chaired the Josep Carreras International Foundation for the Fight Against Leukaemia which was originally founded in Barcelona and now has branches in the USA, Switzerland and Germany.
He has received numerous awards and distinctions, including the Academy of Paris Grand Prix, the 1991 Grammy, the Sir Lawrence Olivier Prize and the 1996 Albert Schweitzer Music Award. He is holder of the Gold Medal of the Spanish Institute of New York, the Gold Medal of the City of Vienna, the Gold Medal for Fine Arts, the Gold Medal of the City of Barcelona and the Gold Medal of the Regional Government of Catalonia. He is Commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters and Chevalier of the National Order of the Legion of Honour of the French Republic, Knight Grand Cross and Grand Officer of the Italian Republic, Grand Order of Merit of the Republic of Austria and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. He holds honorary doctorates from the University of Barcelona, the Universities of Loughborough and Sheffield (GB), the Mendeleyev University of Moscow (Russia) and the University of Camerino (Italy). He is Kammersänger of the Vienna State Opera, as well as a lifetime member of the same theatre, Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music of London, Honorary Member of the European Society for Medicine, Honorary Trustee of the European Society for Medical Oncology, Honorary Member of the Leukaemia Support Group, Honorary President of the Julián Gayarre International Singing Competition and Honorary President of the London Arts Orchestra.
Lorenza Pilar García Seta, known by her stage name of Pilar Lorengar, (Zaragoza, Spain, 1928 – Berlin, Germany, 1996) made her debut in Oran (Argelia), playing the leading role in Maruxa. In 1955, after a number of recitals for the BBC, she was presented at the Festival of Aix-en-Provence, where she performed in The Marriage of Figaro, to then go on to the stages of New York, with Goyescas, Covent Garden in London and Brussels, with La traviata. The following year she sang at the Glyndebourne Opera Festival and then at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and on the main stages of the world, such as La Scala in Milan and at the Salzburg Festivals. In 1958, she was contracted by the Berlin National Opera, becoming its leading figure. Her last performances in Spain, from the mid-eighties on, were at the Vicente Calderón Stadium in 1985 together with Plácido Domingo in Othello, at the Palau in Barcelona in 1986 and at the Teatro de la Zarzuela in Madrid in 1990. She was distinguished with the Sash of Isabella the Catholic, the Medal of the Madrid Circle of Fine Arts (1976), the “Ofelia Nieto” national prize, the Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts and the Gold Medal of Zaragoza. In 1963, the Senate of Berlin granted her the title of “Singer of the House”, and in 1984 she was appointed an honorary member of the Berlin Opera.
Alfredo Kraus (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, 1927 – Madrid, Spain, 1999) enrolled, in 1956, in the Milan Conservatory, where he had Mercedes Llopart for a teacher. He entered for the Geneva International Song Contest, reaching the finals and, there and then, signed his first contract to make his debut with the opera Rigolleto in Cairo. His international launch took place in Lisbon, singing La traviata with Maria Callas. From then on he began a dazzling career that took him to the world’s most important theatres. Among the works which have been his most outstanding successes are Werther, Lucía of hammermoor, La traviata, Manon, Falstaff, Puritanos, Così fan tutte, The Tales of Hoffman, Don Giovanni, La sonámbula and La favorita. 1990 saw the creation of the Alfredo Krauss International Singing Competition, which is held biannually in different cities in the world and whose finals are held in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. As an unprecedented honour in the history of a living artist, the auditorium of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, opened in 1997, was named the “Alfredo Krauss Auditorium”. He was to give his last performance there, which marked the end of his dazzling career.
The most stylish of performers of works of great difficulty, he was awarded numerous prizes and honours: the National Prize for Lyric Theatre, the Golden Stall of the Canaries (1976), the Gold Medal of Las Palmas (1980), the Gold Bellini (1981), the Medal for Merit in Fine Arts (1981), commander of Arts and Letters of France (1984) and Italy’s Caruso Prize (1987).
Plácido Domingo Embil (Madrid, España, 1941) made his debut as a baritone in 1957 with the Spanish operetta Gigantes y Cabezudos, in his parents’ company. After signing a contract to sing with the Israeli National Opera, he stayed in Tel Aviv for two-and-a-half years, where he gave 280 performances. In 1967, he performed for the first time at three major European theatres: Hamburg, with Aida; Vienna, with Don Carlo; and Berlin, with Un ballo in maschera. He made his debut at the New York Metropolitan Opera House the following season. In 1970 he sang the Missa Solemnis before the Pope Paolo II, and in the same year made his debut at Madrid’s Teatro de la Zarzuela with La Gioconda. In 1981 he sang in New York Central Park before 250,000 people. In 1990 he formed part, along with José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti, of the artistic company “The Three Tenors”, in benefit of the Josep Carreras International Foundation against Leukaemia. The trio performed that same year at the closing ceremony of the World Cup in Italy and subsequently at the finals in the USA, France and Japan. Their performances contributed to bringing the opera closer to the public at large. In 1993, Plácido Domingo created Operalia, an international competition for young opera singers. In 2007, he conducted Madame Butterfly at Madrid’s Teatro Real and the following year recorded Pasión española, a compilation of classics of the copla. With his recording Amore Infinito, he put music to the poems of Pope John Paul II.
He has sung duos with singers from other genres, such as Carlos Santana, Alejandro Fernández and Caetano Veloso. Together with John Denver and Julie Andrews, he recorded The Sound of Christmas, which won an Emmy Award. He has made several films with Zeffirelli and has also directed numerous operas on the world’s most prestigious stages. He published an autobiography in 1983, My First 40 Years. He has given benefit concerts, which have raised millions of dollars, for the victims of the 1985 earthquake in Mexico, as well as for the people affected by the hurricanes Katrina and Paulina. He has been director of the Washington Opera from 1994 to 2010, director of the Los Angeles Opera from 2003 to 2019, as well as chairing the organisation Europa Nostra, which brings together several hundred non-profit organisations devoted to overseeing Europe’s Cultural Heritage. As a singer, his repertoire includes 130 roles and he has recorded over one hundred discs.
In April 2010, the Spanish tenor made his reappearance at the Teatro alla Scala with Simón Bocanegra, after overcoming cancer of the colon. This same role earned him a record ovation at Madrid’s Teatro Real, with 25 minutes of applause.
The numerous distinctions he has received include the Gold Medal of the Hispanic Institute of New York, the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom and, in 2010, he received the recognition of the Museo del Barrio de Nueva York “for his lifetime artistic achievements and his involvement in humanitarian works”. He has won eleven Grammy Awards and two Brit Awards. He holds honorary doctorates from numerous universities, including the Complutense in Madrid, the University of New York, Oxford University and Georgetown University, as well as being a Knight of the French Legion of Honour and a Knight of the British Empire.
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