“Even if those sublime voices still existed, no one would want them anymore…”
One of the last of the great sublime soprano voices has now gone silent. Montserrat Caballé, Spanish bel canto opera singer extraordinaire, died today at age 85. She is irreplaceable, the last voice of a bygone age, that still could bring the cathartic tears that only true spiritual purity of tone and timbre can evoke in an open-hearted listener—one who can recognize the presence of the divine in such crystalline waves of graceful sound.
Paradoxically, Montserrat’s singing was perhaps best described in a book on therapeutic conversation, entitled Strategic Dialogue, by Giorgio Nardone: “The strategic dialogue, a structure with a sequence of questions, paraphrases and evocative sentences, is like a musical score that needs to possess its own melody, and requires an interpreter to be able to perform it to its best. Different performers play the same opera differently. Everyone can learn to play the piano and give a good performance of music, but very few can give shivers to the listeners when touching the keys.
“Similarly everyone can learn the technique of the strategic dialogue and use it decently, but very few are those who can turn it into true art. However just like those who learn to play the piano, one can come to delight oneself and others by bettering one’s art through years of study and practice…
“Moreover, there is only one way to become an artist of excellence, by continually developing one’s technical abilities while constantly trying to overcome one’s limitations.”
Montserrat Caballé ceaselessly produced shivers in her audience. As one of my vocal teachers said once, “When you make their hairs stand on end, you have achieved the transmission of beauty; and in doing so, have touched the audience. This is the goal of vocal art.”
Although I do not know the full catalogue of Montserrat’s performances, I confess that I adore her perfectly sattvic singing technique, a method that emerges from her great character: the clarity of beauty born of pure strength and one-pointed will.
The video of her that I most watch, and that I once showed to our ashram choir, was of her singing Casta Diva in 1970. She was mesmerizing and mesmerized, in a sublime trance state. She spoke of that state as a level of consciousness that she would reach during transcendent moments of singing: an out of body vocal mode in which the singer disappears and only the song remains.
Montserrat’s yogic power of concentrated artistic presence resulted in what we in Sat Yoga might call the realization of the potentials of transmutation and transfiguration—the atman’s power to transform one’s very substance at the cellular level, resulting in a divine manifestation.
Excellence isn’t just a matter of practice, as the author alludes to above. Montserrat had access to Real Presence, which is the true genius that sings, when one’s character—the power to channel what one wills in alignment with the highest divine values—has been developed sufficiently. Although it may be a cliché, many who grew up in post-war poverty in Europe, with access still to classical culture and teachers who could transmit it, were able to take advantage of the conditions for the kind of rare artistry that Montserrat achieved.
Going a bit deeper still, what is the essence of such ability? Shunyamurti, guiding my own development as a vocal artist, summed it up this way: “You are producing an instance of rhizomatic logic each time you sing. It is a new kind of art coming through, emerging from a hidden source, with a new pattern, a new form of beauty, not through rational thought but through the rhizome of the Heart.”
Shunya went on: “It is secretly fed by the God-seed. The rhizomatic mind develops secretly underground, employing the unconscious and super-conscious levels in integrated action, producing a massive form of creativity that results in magical chemistries, intensities, and metaphoric capacities of transformation.” From the 4-17-18 class on Arborescent-Rhizomatic Logic, by Shunyamurti shared here:
The magical chemistry produced through the rhizome of the Heart is expressed as a vocal crystal in the singing art. “The key is to form and sustain a stable crystal that is offered to the audience long enough so that they are saturated with it,” Shunyamurti revealed in a private conversation.
This crystal must be formed at the highest chakra possible for the singing artist, and it must be held long enough for the listener to merge with it. The great artist is able to form complexities of nuance through modulation of the logic of the crystal, which then is able to heal all pathologies.
Beauty itself, according to Shunyamurti, is an unseen crystal made of pure intelligence, emanating light and love. “It hangs in the ether, as sound waves, creating an expanding dimensionality as the singer continues to form the crystal and stabilize it, and then, all the bodies and space itself are pervaded by that energy field. People become possessed by the music, literally.”
In essence, the great vocal artist is creating a crystal of transformational power. “The dark, unprocessed energies of the listener are united to the brilliant light of the crystal being formed by the singer, note by note. This is why audiences demand perfection of their favorite singing artists, to complete their healing work via Heart sound.”
This unification, the yoga of light and dark, known as chiaroscuro in painting and classical singing, is what Montserrat had mastered. It is also known as the art of bel canto, “beautiful song”, based on the physical laws of acoustical aesthetics recognized since ancient times.
I connect these physical laws of sonic beauty to the axiomatic principles of bel canto, that when accurately followed, produce the greatness we hear in Montserrat. Shunyamurti spoke to this, when he continued his teaching on rhizomatic logic with that of the arborescent—the logic that branches out into principles of the modes of the Way, producing the effortless action that reflects the perfection of the Creator.
The Heart logic and the arborescent proliferation of the secret understandings of life, of art, “produce a final fruit, a star fruit, at the top of the Tree, that is the Tree of Life.”
Millions of listeners are moved by Montserrat’s eternally living voice, because she achieved the fruit of the Tree, and held firm as the star that she was. May we be blessed to continue to hear, in our Heart, the endless divine resonance of her angelic voice.
Thank you for your modeling of such purity and dedication, Montserrat. May the angels now be singing back to you.