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Freddie Mercury’s timeless ‘Barcelona’ remembered on the singer’s 30th death anniversary

Queen frontman had varied musical interests and talents and operatic duet with Catalan soprano was one of his last recordings

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24 November 2021 07:30 AM

by

Cillian Shields | Barcelona

November 24 this year marks the 30th anniversary of the death of legendary Queen singer and frontman Freddie Mercury.

With 15 studio albums, including one posthumously released after Mercury’s death, Queen have countless instantly recognisable hits to their name. 

The singer, born Farrokh Bulsara in modern-day Tanzania, was a man of many varied talents and musical interests, but is of course best known for the rock sounds of Queen as well as his charismatic, flamboyant stage persona. 

However, one of the last tracks he recorded before his death in 1991 was ‘Barcelona’, the operatic duet with Catalan soprano Montserrat Caballé

The British singer was passionate about opera and had spoken publicly of his admiration for the soprano singer Caballé before the pair had ever met. Eventually, a meeting was set up where they played music and swapped ideas, and a close connection was instantly established. 

It didn’t take long for the English star to compose a song for them both to perform together in honour of the city where Caballé was born and raised. Mercury stated in interviews that to perform alongside Caballé was “a dream come true.” 

Montserrat Caballé had already been involved in promoting her home city when Barcelona was chosen as the host city for the 1992 Olympic Games. Although nobody remembers whose idea it was according to Mercury’s biography, the pair were set in their intentions to make their homage to the Catalan city the official anthem of the Games. 

In fact, so strong was the desire for his and Caballé’s voices to be the sound of the global sporting event that Mercury even said in an interview with Spanish public broadcasters RTVE that if the organizers of the Games didn’t like the song ‘Barcelona’ as the official anthem, he offered to write another. 

Of course, ‘Barcelona’ was chosen to be the theme for the summer of 1992, and was officially presented as the Olympic anthem in a concert at the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc in October 1988. The event was put on to celebrate the arrival of the Olympic flag from Seoul. 

In fact, the musical score accompanying the light show that the Magic Fountain normally performs includes a part of the song ‘Barcelona’ in it. 

Sadly, though, this was also to be the site of Freddie Mercury’s last ever public performance, as he stopped touring and playing concerts in the final few years before his death.

The single climbed as high as 8th position in the UK charts when it was first released, but then peaked at number 2 when it was re-released in 1992 for the Games. 

Mercury and Caballé followed the hit song up with a full album, also titled ‘Barcelona’. 

However, Freddie Mercury unfortunately never got to perform the anthem at the Olympic Stadium, as he passed away from AIDS the year before the Games took place. 

Regardless, his collaboration with Montserrat Caballé was still proudly played at the iconic Montjuïc stadium for the 1992 Olympic Games.

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  • Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé singing together in the music video for 'Barcelona' (screenshot from music video)

  • Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé singing together in the music video for 'Barcelona' (screenshot from music video)

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