Opera icon Montserrat Caballe, who duetted with Freddie Mercury on Barcelona, dies

Montserrat Caballe marks her 50th stage anniversary in Basel Switzerland on Nov. 17 2006

Her 1969 performance in Verdi's "Don Carlo" became famous for her "la" on the final "ah" at the very end of the opera, which lasted for more than 20 bars up, driving the audience wild with delight.

The soprano was renowned for her bel canto technique and her interpretations of the roles of Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti.

She was 85 and had long suffered from health problems.

The Spanish news agency Efe announced on Saturday morning that she had died at St Pau hospital in Barcelona, according to hospital sources.

It is believed she was suffering from a gall bladder problem.

Born in April 1933 to a humble family in Barcelona, Maria de Montserrat Viviana Concepcion Caballe i Folc studied music at the Liceu Conservatory in the Catalan capital.

Cabelle, who had been ill for some years, dueted with Queen's Freddie Mercury on the song "Barcelona" which was a worldwide hit in 1987.

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a tweet: "A great ambassador of our country has died".

She had stints with the Basel Opera and Bremen Opera before her global breakthrough in 1965 in Lucrezia Borgia at Carnegie Hall in NY.

Her career spanned 50 years.

"Montserrat Caballe, her voice and her tenderness, will always stay with us", he added.

She was ordered to pay €254,000 (£223,304) and accepted a six-month suspended jail sentence as part of a deal with prosecutors after being accused of funnelling her earnings through a company in Andorra.

She had two children with Spanish tenor Bernabe Marti who she married in 1964.

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