On October 6, Spanish operatic soprano Montserrat Caballé passed away at age 85, we’ll remember her for the impressive operatic career and for her majestic and daring 1987 duet with Freddie Mercury
Montserrat Caballé and Freddie Mercury: When Rock and Opera blend majestically and perfectly in “Barcelona”
Born in Barcelona on 12 April 1933, the Spanish operatic soprano Montserrat Caballé enchanted audiences worldwide for decades with a voice that was often described as ” pure but powerful, with superb control of vocal shadings and exquisite pianissimo”. But despite her acclaimed Opera career, in the 1980’s, she surprised the music world in a daring collaboration with her fan, Queen frontman, the rocker Freddie Mercury, that led to one of the most majestic and powerful duets of all time. In 1987, for the first time, Rock and Pop music fans worldwide heard her name and listened to her voice, when the majestic duet “Barcelona” became a smash hit climbing on Pop charts everywhere. The clash of two different music worlds, Rock and Opera, and the combination of two unique, yet, very different voices, turned “Barcelona” into a timeless song that pleased both Rock and Pop music fans as much as Opera fans.Released on 26 October, 1987 “Barcelona” remains as one of the biggest hits of Mercury’s solo career, reaching No.8 in the UK Singles Chart in 1988 and No.2 in 1992, months after his death.
The story of this unique duet starts with Mercury, a long-time fan of opera (which he already had successfully blend into Rock music with Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”) when he first saw Montserrat Caballé performing live in 1983 and became a fan. Later, in 1986, he mentioned on Spanish television that he would be glad to meet her in person. The pair would meet in early 1987, when Caballé, a Barcelona native, was asked to help with producing a song for the 1992 Summer Olympics that were going to take place in the Spanish city. The soprano heard about how much Mercury would love to meet her and so a meeting was arranged for the two to meet in a Barcelona hotel. Reportedly, Mercury was so nervous before the meeting that smoked two packs of cigarettes – despite his acclaimed and unique vocal range and his songwriting talent, Mercury always remained insecure at times – fearing he would not correspond to the soprano’s expectations.
However there was instant chemistry between both artists. Mercury presented the song “Barcelona”, which he co-wrote with Mike Moran, to Caballé, playing it at the piano. It impressed the soprano so much that she became increasingly more curious and enthusiastic about working with him. She asked Mercury what was the usual length of a Rock album, and instead of making only that one song, she then proposed him to do a full album of duets, much to Mercury’s surprise. The result was the album “Barcelona”, released in 1988. The song was performed live by the pair two times only, one in May 1987, at the Ibiza festival, held at the Ku nightclub and on 8 October 1988, at the open air La Nit festival in Barcelona, which was staged on the occasion of the arrival of the Olympic flag from Seoul. Together, Mercury and Caballé sang three tracks from the forthcoming album Barcelona, namely “Barcelona”, “How Can I Go On” and “The Golden Boy”. This end up being the last live performance ever of Mercury who passed away due to complications from AIDS in 1991, months before the opening of the Summer Olympics where he was going to perform the song with Caballé. Instead, the recording of the song was used at the opening.
Now, with both artists gone, we are left with the valuable legacy they left to music. “Barcelona” has stand the test of time, confirming the imense talent and power of two eternal voices that will live forever, Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé
Watch the 1987 official music video of “Barcelona” by Montserrat Caballé and Freddie Merury
Also watch: “The Golden Boy” performed live by Montserrat Caballé and Freddie Merury in 1988 at La Nit Festival in Barcelona, Mercury’s final live performance
Listen to the full 1988 album “Barcelona” by Montserrat Caballé and Freddie Mercury
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