Barcelona (Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé song)
"Barcelona" is a single released by Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury and operatic soprano Montserrat Caballé. A part of their collaborative album Barcelona, it also appeared on Queen's Greatest Hits III.
|Single by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé|
|from the album Barcelona|
|B-side||"Exercises in Free Love" (3:58)|
|Released||26 October 1987|
|Freddie Mercury singles chronology|
The song reflects Mercury's love of opera with his high notes and Caballé's operatic vocals, backed by a full orchestra. Originally released in 1987, it was one of the biggest hits of Mercury's solo career, reaching number eight in the UK Singles Chart. After Mercury's death in 1991, it was featured at the 1992 Summer Olympics, after which the track climbed even higher, peaking at number two in the UK, the Netherlands and New Zealand.
Mercury had been a long-time fan of opera, especially favouring Montserrat Caballé. In 1986, he mentioned on Spanish television that he would be glad to see her in person. They had a friendly initial meeting in Barcelona in February 1987. Later, when the city had been chosen for the 1992 Summer Olympics, Caballé, a native of the city, was asked to help with producing a song for the games. She summoned Mercury for the task. Caballé became enthusiastic about the project and instead of recording a single, she proposed to make an album, on which Mercury agreed. The song "Barcelona" had to be its opening song, to be completed by 1988, and to be submitted as a candidate for the 1992 Olympic theme (the selection was scheduled for 1988, four years before the Games). The recording was complicated by Caballé's tight schedule. Thus to spare her time, Mercury recorded the song, singing Caballé's part in falsetto. He would then send a tape to Caballé to prepare her for the joint studio sessions.
The song was co-written by Mercury with Mike Moran, who also appeared in its video and played piano and all keyboards for the studio recording. The song starts with an orchestral introduction, which fades and is followed by Mercury and Caballé singing alternately their solo lines, sometimes merging into a duet. When singing the chorus "Barcelona" and a few other parts for the studio version, Mercury dubs over his voice in his usual multi-tracking style. Mercury leads the song whereas Caballé provides a powerful background soprano. Since Caballé covers the soprano part, Mercury sings in his natural baritone voice rather than the forced tenor that was common in his other recordings.
The song has been described as a rare textbook example of a combination of pop and opera singing which accentuated their differences. Whereas Mercury articulates his every word, Caballé focuses on the tone; her lines are much harder to comprehend, and further, she uses both English and Spanish languages. Consequently, she keeps her part melodic throughout all the song at the expense of the text, whereas Mercury has to resort from singing to nearly shouting at the crescendo part in order to deliver his words. Mercury was reportedly amazed by the legendary ability of Caballé to control her voice; for example, in the fadeout, he had to step away from the microphone to decrease his voice intensity, whereas she didn't move at all.
In October 1987, official music video was released, directed by David Mallet, who collaborated with Queen on their previous videos. Mike Moran, who co-wrote the song is portrayed in the video as conductor with light stick and is often confused with Brian May, mostly due to their almost identical haircuts. In 2019 original video shot on 35 mm film was scanned and digitally remastered into 4K resolution.
In 2000, The Solo Collection the Rarities 2 disc contained an early version with different lyrics, running 4:21, and a later version running 4:41 as well as on the Singles disc, an extended version lasting 7:07.
Its next important performance occurred 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 was the last live performance by Mercury, who was already beginning to suffer from AIDS. He died in 1991, so the recording of the song was played over a travelogue of the city at the start of the international broadcast of the 1992 Olympics opening ceremony.
Prior to the start of the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final between Manchester United F.C. and FC Bayern Munich held at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Caballé performed "Barcelona" live, accompanied with a recording by Mercury, who also appeared on the stadium's electronic screen.
|Australia (Kent Music Report)||85|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||32|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||37|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||8|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||21|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||2|
|New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)||2|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||8|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||2|
|German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)||100|
The single was distributed on 7-inch and 12-inch vinyl records and 5" CDs, all with Polydor labels. The 5" CD and 7" record, but not the 12" record, were reissued in 1992; a 3" CD was issued as a promotional-only to record company executives in Japan in 1992. The B-side of nearly all records contained "Exercises in Free Love" from The Freddie Mercury Album. The 1992 version of the 7" Spanish record had another version of "Barcelona" on the B-side, and the rare 1987 12" Hong Kong record was one-sided and had a unique sleeve. Most 5" CDs contained two or three versions of "Barcelona" and "Exercises in Free Love". Most 7" record and 5" CD covers featured Mercury and Caballé singing on a stage with an orchestra on the background, though the Portuguese version pictured them in a static studio photo. The 1992 reissue 7" records contained another version of the singing artists, with no orchestra.
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