Montserrat Figueras (1942–2011) was an outstanding soprano and a leading figure in the performance of a vast vocal repertoire from the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods. Born in Barcelona into a family of music lovers, she studied with Jordi at Albareda and later at the Schola Cantorum Basilensis as well as the Musikakademie in Basel, Switzerland. From an early age she performed with Enric Gispert and the medieval music ensemble Ars Musicae. In 1966 she began studying early vocal techniques, from the troubadours to the Baroque, developing a highly personal approach directly inspired in the original sources, both historical and traditional, while remaining independent from post-Romantic influences. In 1967 she embarked on a personal and artistic partnership with Jordi Savall, which was to be singularly fruitful in the couple’s various musical activities, including teaching, research and creation. She developed an innovative performance style characterized by a close fidelity to the historical sources, as well as an extraordinary creative and expressive skill, which have influenced the entire historical music movement.
Between 1974 and 1989 she took part in the foundation of the music ensembles Hespèrion XX, La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Le Concert des Nations. Both with these groups and as a soloist, she regularly appeared at the leading festivals around the world, devoting herself to the recovery of a musical heritage as exceptional as it was eclectic. She is remembered for her magical performances on the albums El Cant de la Sibil·la, Ninna Nanna, Diáspora Sefardí, Monteverdi’s Battaglie & Lamenti, Peri, Fontei and Strozzi (2000), and her role in the CD-Books Don Quijote de la Mancha: Romances y Músicas (2005), Christophorus Columbus. Lost Paradises (2006), Francisco Javier. The Route to the Orient (2007) and Jerusalem (2008), Le Royaume Oublié, la tragédie cathare (2009) and Borgia Dynasty (2010), an album which received the 2011 Grammy Award in the Best Small Ensemble Performance category. Her last solo album, Lux Feminae, won her unconditional critical acclaim both at home and internationally.
She made her debut at Barcelona’s opera house, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, in 1991 in Vicent Martín i Soler’s Una cosa rara under the direction of Jordi Savall, appearing again in 1993 in Monteverdi’s Orfeo. She also appeared regularly at the leading European, American and Asian festivals. Together with Jordi Savall she founded the record label Alia Vox, with which she recorded numerous CDs. Her recordings have won many international distinctions, including the Grand Prix de l’Académie du Disque Français, the Edison Klassiek Award, the Grand Prix de la Nouvelle Académie du Disque, the Gran Premi from the Nova Acadèmia del Disc and the Grand Prix of the Académie Charles-Cros.
In 2003 the French Government made her an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and in 2008 she and Jordi Savall were appointed Artists for Peace under UNESCO’s Good Will Ambassadors programme.
In 2011, the Catalan Government awarded her the Creu de Sant Jordi in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the recovery of early music and the French Ministry of Culture awarded her the honour of Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.