Montserrat Figueras, Soprano with an Ethereal Voice, Dies at 69

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 09:04 PM

The Catalan soprano Montserrat Figueras, who brought a soulful voice to a broad swath of medieval, Renaissance and Baroque vocal music, died on Wednesday in Barcelona at age 69. Her death, from cancer, was announced by Alia Vox, a record label that she co-founded with her husband Jordi Savall, a viola da gamba player and conductor.

Figueras and Savall founded three pioneering ensembles together: Hespèrion XX (now called Hespèrion XXI), La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Le Concert des Nations. These groups infused pre-classical music with a decidedly international spirit, introducing listeners to sounds that spanned the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

With her silvery, light soprano voice, and penchant for flowing, multicolored gowns, Figueras created a beguiling presence on stage. Born in Barcelona to a musical family, Figueras studied singing as a young girl, originally as part of her studies to be an actress. She married Savall in 1968 with whom she had two children, Arianna and Ferran, both musicians.

In 1974 Figueras and Savall founded Hesperion XX, an ensemble devoted to Hispanic and European repertoire before 1800. The group arrived just as the early-music movement was gaining momentum in concert halls across Europe and eventually the US. Among their first recordings was "El barroco español," featuring the keyboard player Ton Koopman.

Figueras went on to appear on more than 70 albums, including many for Alia Vox. Among them were lavishly researched thematic collections organized around topics as diverse as the worlds of the Borgia Dynasty, Christopher Columbus and Caravaggio. Last year Figueras and Savall brought their project, "Jerusalem," about the history of the three major religions in Jerusalem, to Lincoln Center, which was broadcast on WQXR.

Figueras received a number of awards and was named an offer of France's Order of Arts and Letters in 2003. In 2008 she and her husband were named "Artists for Peace" by UNESCO. Her record company said she continued to give concerts and make recordings until August, even as she fought the effects of cancer.

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Comments [5]

to mike from new york

our sena as we used her to call hardly did anything in new york except a concert avery fisher hall?
bing offered vanessa which she did not like for her met debür role...and den bing dropped her.

SENA JURINAC was a kind and noble woman and artist!

Nov. 26 2011 08:58 PM
Carolyn from New York City

Thank you for announcing this wonderful artist's untimely death in large letters. In the esoteric world of picking favorites in music, I'm sure her name would would not stand out as much as her husbands. She was truly one of the greatest in her genre and am only thankful that the Savalls have contributed so much and so extremely well to their form of early music (Spanish and Mediterrean) but not limited to. I have learned much from their recordings. I am sorry for this loss.

Nov. 25 2011 10:25 AM
Mike from NYC

Although it is always tragic when an artist passes away, it is unfathomable to me to see that you have announced the passing of this very little known performer in big letters, and you have completely ignored the passing of one of the greatest 20th century sopranos who died on 22 November 2011- Ms. Sena Jurinac. This is just ludicrous on your end!

Nov. 25 2011 09:52 AM
Michael Meltzer

Tragic !

Nov. 24 2011 05:44 PM
Maarten Amsterdam from amsterdam

how sad!
Two or three times i saw her , this beautifull women with Hesperion in concert in in Amsterdam in Concertgebouw and in Oude Kerk in the nineties..A miracle, such a voice, such an expression,such a nice cute face... unforgettable experiences, thank you so much!!

Nov. 24 2011 04:24 PM

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