Plans to name Barcelona's Sants train station after opera singer Montserrat Caballé

Spanish People's Party proposes name change ahead of construction works expected to finish by 2026

Soprano opera singer Montserrat Caballé performing at the Peralada music festival in the summer of 2012
Soprano opera singer Montserrat Caballé performing at the Peralada music festival in the summer of 2012 / Mar Martí
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

April 12, 2024 02:04 PM

April 12, 2024 02:05 PM

The Spanish Commission of Transport has approved a non-law proposal to rename Barcelona's Sants station. 

The People's Party (PP) proposed to name the Catalan capital's central station after world-famous soprano Montserrat Caballé. The proposal received 17 votes in favor (PP and and far-right Vox), 17 abstentions (Socialist's Party, left-wing Sumar and pro-independence Junts) and Catalan pro-independence Esquerra Republicana party voted against. 

The non-law proposal says that Caballé "was one of the best sopranos in history and someone who has spread Barcelona's name to the world with talent and strength."  

Unique and controversial artist 

Montserrat Caballé started her career in the fifties, singing in Switzerland. She returned to her birthplace, Barcelona in 1962 to debut at the Liceu opera hall, located on La Rambla boulevard. 

In 1987 she ventured out of the opera world and into pop music to release a collaboration with Freddie Mercury, lead singer of iconic British rock band Queen, titled 'Barcelona'. The song became an anthem ahead of the1992 Summer Olympic Games in the Catalan capital.  

The opera singer declared that she is a supporter of "Spanish unity" in 2008, she later also said that she is "an ambassador for Spain" after the Catalan independence movement started coming up. 

In 2015 she was sentenced to six months in prison for tax evasion, after admitting she defrauded the government for one million euros by being listed as a resident in Andorra, while still living in Barcelona, so she could pay less taxes. 

Caballé gave her last performance in June 2018, a few months before passing away. 


Her past controversies have caused people to criticize the proposal to name the station after the opera singer. 

Many are now proposing to name the station after Núria Feliu, a Catalan singer who was a part of the Nova Cançó movement, an artistic movement promoting Catalan music in Francoist Spain. 

Feliu released a song in 1978, 'Cançó De Sants', to express her love for the Sants neighborhood, where she was born and lived her entire life. 

Renaming stations after notable women 

The Spanish government is already studying the possibility of renaming the train station, as the transport minister, Óscar Puente, said during an interview in Catalunya Ràdio radio station. 

"We have to study this possibility. It is not an outlandish proposal. We have been considering putting the names of notable women on train stations for a while now," Puente said.  

In the last years, the Spanish executive has been renaming train stations after famous women, such as Madrid's main station: Atocha, which is now named after writer Almudena Grande, who passed away in 2021. 

Puente has said that the government will have to discuss with Barcelona and the Catalan government to agree on a name. 

Criticism on Catalan independence push 

In the same proposal, PP criticized the Catalan independence push. They say naming Sants after Caballé is a way "of reversing the damage the Catalan independence push has caused." 

"The name change of Sants station to incorporate the memory of Montserrat Caballé is much more than a recognition of a universal Catalonia. It is a commitment to a specific vision of Barcelona and Catalonia: cosmopolitan, tolerant, bright and open to the world," the text reads. 

Left-wing Sumar MP Júlia Boada has accused the PP of trying to "use" Caballé for their own political vision. She says the name change can't be decided by congress, it must be in "dialogue" with the territory. 

€176 million investment 

Catalan pro-independence Junts MP Isidre Gavín said that "it's offensive that PP wants to change the name of a station instead of worrying that investments are fulfilled." 

The Spanish government invested €176 million into remodeling Sants station. The entire cost is expected to exceed €400 million, including other changes made in the area around the station. 

The plan is to see the station completed "before 2026," as Óscar Puente said. 

Barcelona Sants train station
Barcelona Sants train station / Albert Cadanet

Part of the works are financed with NextGenerationEU funds and they "depend on the works being executed before a certain date." 

The remodeling includes "a bigger entrance hall and more open station, which is what the neighbors have asked for," the minister said.