The sad news from Barcelona yesterday was that the superb Catalan soprano, Monserrat Figueras, passed away at the age of 69. For the last year she had been struggling with an unnamed illness.
|Monserrat Figueras: photo Suzanna Clarke|
Monserrat Figueras was born and grew up in a musical family in Barcelona. For the last forty years she and her husband, the viola da gamba master and conductor Jordi Savall, introduced generations of listeners to music that spanned many centuries and lands, from the Middle East to Latin America. In pursuit of their shared artistic vision, the duo founded three ensembles: Hesprion XX (now called Hesprion XXI), La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Le Concert des Nations.
|Figueras and Savall at the Batha Museum: Photo Suzanna Clarke|
Audiences at the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music will remember Figueras and Savall delivering some of the most outstanding concerts the festival has witnessed. Back in 2006, Monserrat’s authoritative interpretations of medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music demonstrated why she had become world famous. At the concert at the Batha Museum she delivered a powerful and flawless performance. Her ability to switch between languages, (Berber, Arabic and ancient Spanish dialects, to name just a few), with seeming ease, and her mastery of ancient singing techniques never became technical, but rather a springboard for her own personal style.
Figueras and Savall returned to the festival in 2010 to present Jerusalem - la ville des deux paix, in which their music retraced 3,200 years of the history of the sacred city. It was a major work with around 25 people on stage, including soloists from the Capella Reial de Catalunya and invited musicians from Europe, the Near East and the Maghreb. Montserrat Figueras, Jordi Savall and their Ensemble Hesperion XXI delivered what Jordi described as, "a magical journey outside of time, of Sufi music and Hebrew lamentations". The concert was one of that year's highlights.
Figueras recorded more than 70 albums, and the couple established their own record label, Alia Vox. She was named an officer of France's Order of Arts and Letters in 2003; in 2008 she and her husband were named "Artists for Peace" by UNESCO. In recent years, their artistic family has come to include their children. Their son Ferran, is a talented theorbo player and singer, and their daughter Arianna is an excellent harpist and singer with a striking resemblance to her mother.
The View from Fez extends its condolences to Jordi Savall and his family.