July 30, 2021

Montserrat Caballé: The story of 'Montsy' and Freddie | Culture

Montserrat Caballé: The story of 'Montsy' and Freddie | Culture

Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé interpret 'Barcelona'.

He was unexpectedly planted at the then Hotel Ritz in Barcelona with his producer, Mike Moran, and a powerful music team and, before the piano, he began to sing Exercises in Free Love, making him, in falsetto, the parts that would correspond to her, if she accepted. It was at the beginning of 1987 and that is how Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé met personally. And there was born the embryo of what would be one of the best iconographies of both contemporary music and the idea of ​​classical modernity that wanted to sell the 1992 Olympic Barcelona: the rock-histrionic and the sober diva singing together the popular anthem Barcelona, sound epitome of the event.

Mercury was musically crazy and obsessed with her since he saw her sing in 1983 at the Royal Opera House in London, in a performance of Un ballo in Maschera, by Verdi. By means of the representatives the British did not stop to make him arrive his interest in knowing it and to be able to sing some day together. In public, he never tired of repeating that his favorite interpreter was "Montsy", In the particular pronunciation of the singer. That Exercises in Free Love (which would end up being the subject Dream) was the passport. Caballé liked that character who, contrary to what he appeared, sold his voice instead of his image. "When he got to the piano to improvise, I realized that he was in front of a real musician". The impact was such that they agreed to see each other again, in London, at the home of Queen's own vocalist, to make a model.

With lyrics and music created by Mercury and Mike Habiten emerged Barcelona. Surely not at all casual: the soprano had the desire and order of the mayor of Barcelona, ​​Pasqual Maragall, to play some piece at the opening ceremony of the Games, perhaps the anthem. Maragall had already made Caballé participate in an act in Lausanne for the candidacy of the city before the IOC, a few months before the nomination. With time, it was the singer's own brother, Carles, according to the soprano herself, who suggested the idea that she and the leader of Queen will sing together.

That day in London was until six in the morning to make the model. Needless to say, it dazzled both the mayor and the members of the Spanish Olympic Committee. But the miracle of musical excellence was more human than technical. As Mercury would later say, they were really worried that the antagonistic voices and registers "could be coupled", but it was not complicated by "the feeling that arose", as she admitted years later. Caballé, with a strong but very human character, was captivated by the "simple personality" of a star like Mercury, "nothing to see when she went out on stage singing with Queen". He also shook (and joined them) the religious gaze, even though the singer followed the Zoroastrian cult: "I am a believer and he spoke of God and told me: 'It does not matter what path and what names he takes, but God only one ', and I agreed, "he recalled years later.

Only that personal chemistry between both explains that what was going to be a song, that in 1987 already occupied the eighth position in the ranking of the hits in Great Britain, it became the project of an album, work that lasted for more than a year and a half, torpedoed by the artistic agendas of both and, above all, by the AIDS disease that Mercury developed. "Told me. Then we had the opportunity to create songs in which they all have meaning … I was moved because we were doing something very special and that does not happen often; You do not always have the luck to sing with someone who leaves, who knows, and to be interpreting with him his last goodbye, "he recalled in an interview with the agency Efe a few years ago.

Monserrat Caballé and Freddie Mercury, in 1989.
Monserrat Caballé and Freddie Mercury, in 1989.

Caballé remained silent about Mercury's illness, something that united them more closely and that did not prevent them from acting together on several occasions, especially a remembered promotional action for the 1992 Spain that took place at the Ku disco in Ibiza in May 1987 Mercury died eight months before the opening of the Games, so the interpretation together, despite the image that has remained in the collective imagination, was not possible. It was then when another song was sought and the organization opted for Friends forever that Josep Carreras sang.

But Barcelona, first song of the homonymous album, was: the clause imposed by the Barcelona Consistory that the connections with the televisions of the whole world for the retransmissions had to be with Barcelona helped, for example, that the song, that 1992, be placed second in the ranking British musical. Artistic issues aside (somehow, Caballé was a pioneer in the popularization of the incursions of opera singers in the genre of rock and its staging), the unimaginable but sweetly shocking chemistry between Montsy and Freddie ("Thanks to me it has now become a rocker", He joked) did the rest. So much so, that the Englishman wanted the song to sound at his funeral.


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