The beautiful memories of Montserrat Caballé from Freddie Mercury and Barcelona

This week marks the 35th anniversary of one of the most extraordinary songs of all time. Just hearing those opening bars still sends a tingle down your spine. Barcelona was created for the 1992 Olympic Games in the Spanish city, but was recorded five years earlier and released on October 26, 1997. For Freddie, it was the pinnacle of his career. Queen’s caption called it “a dream come true, though she wondered if our voices would match or would she agree to do it.” He adored opera and, in particular, idolized the legendary Spanish soprano. He watches Montserrat in her last interview before her death in 2018, talking about her incredible association and confessing, very movingly, why she was glad he told her about the diagnosis. of AIDS from her.

Freddie had made a playful comment on Spanish Television in 1986, mentioning that Montserrat was his favorite singer in the world. When Barcelona, ​​his hometown, was chosen for the 1992 Olympics, he approached the Queen star to record an official song.

When they met in 1987, they discovered a mutual passion for creating something new. Despite original plans for a single song, a full album was born between tapes shipped between the UK and Spain, and recording sessions in London.

Montserrat revealed that Freddie originally came to Barcelona and played some of his compositions for her to sing as a duet. And she was “captivated”. The opera star said Freddie’s work was “magnificent. It is something very special, it is created from the heart”.

She even tried to persuade him to record some pure opera with her.

Montserrat said: “When I said to him at his home in London, ‘Why don’t we record a duet for baritone and soprano?’, he said, ‘No, because people would actually see me sing.’

“I suggested that we sing the aria from La Traviata between the father and the girl because it’s for baritone, but he said no, that it would seem that he was betraying his audience and his fans.”

Montserrat’s niece, who shares the same name, recalled the great fun and long nights rehearsing in London at Freddie’s mansion in West Kensington.

She said: “We were at Freddie’s house, there were days we were maybe until six or seven in the morning, because after dinner they would go to the piano and he would play the piano and sing, and Montserrat would improvise. It really was an amazing party.

“For Freddie, Montserrat was out of this world. He had so much love and admiration for her, he was always making sure everything was perfect for her. When we got to the hotel, there were roses in every room, we wanted for nothing.”

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While the pair were still working on their collaboration, Montserrat also performed at the Royal Opera House, with Freddie in attendance.

Freddie described how she “embarrassed” him by introducing him to the crowd: “I was sitting there in my tuxedo and I had to stand up and take a bow. She blew me kisses and I kissed her back.”

Montserrat said: “The public loved it. They went crazy at the Royal Opera House.”

Asked if he expected the song to become the official song of the Barcelona Games, Freddie said: “Yes. Yes! And if you don’t like this one, I’ll write another one. I hope that the people of Barcelona, ​​well everyone, I hope you like it. It’s for everyone.”

At the official launch of the song Barcelona in Ibiza in May 1987, Freddie joked that he would dedicate the rest of his future to the woman he called Montsi: “(I’ll do) a few more songs with Montsi. She now she is going to occupy all my time and I am quite prepared to do it. I look forward to all that time.”

Of course, time was not something that Freddie had. The single was released in October 1987 and became a huge hit, reaching number eight in the UK charts.

However, in 1990, Freddie confided in Montsi that his health was failing and that he would not survive to perform their song together at the Olympics.

The soprano described how Freddie broke the news, but also his honest reaction.


Montserrat said; “She told me two years before. He said, ‘I won’t make it, I won’t make it.’ We were in the recording studio, recording some final stuff, which was the last thing he recorded, and he told me, “I can’t do the Barcelona (performance).”

“And I completely stopped and said, ‘Why?’ I thought she didn’t want to. It was true that she had lost a lot of weight and deteriorated a lot and she said, ‘With AIDS, I can’t think two years from now.’

In another interview, Montserrat added: “He told me: ‘It is my duty to tell you this.’ And I said: ‘No, it’s not a duty, but I’m very grateful that you told me because it means that I have your friendship and this is the most important thing for me.

The soprano also made a very special personal recording for her friend: “He told me he would have liked to sing the Phantom of the Opera aria and I told him I would record it, and I recorded it for him in the studio.” .”

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