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.