The iconic time Freddie Mercury and soprano Montserrat Caballé’s duet initiated the 1992 Barcelona Olympics

23 July 2021, 17:05 | Updated: 26 July 2021, 08:47

Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé sing 'Barcelona'
Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé sing 'Barcelona'. Picture: Getty

By Rosie Pentreath

Two legends of music made history, as Barcelona Olympics celebrations brought classical music and powerful rock together in one iconic song.

As the Olympic flag arrived in Barcelona from the Korean city of Seoul in 1988, an unexpected but iconic music pairing came together.

The voice of legendary Spanish operatic soprano Montserrat Caballé arrived on stage with that of rock band Queen’s charismatic frontman, Freddie Mercury, and an historic duo helped celebrate the launch of the next Olympics.

Caballé and Mercury’s song, ‘Barcelona’, was played out on stage at La Nit open air festival in the city, to mark the arrival of the Olympic flag for the Barcelona 1992 Olympics. The pair had recorded the song, which was a hit single from their collaborative album of the same name, in 1987.

Read more: Definitively the greatest classical music moments in Olympics history

‘Barcelona’ was a hit when it was released, reaching No.8 in the UK Singles Chart. And it had its big moment during the Barcelona 1992 Olympics when it was played during the opening ceremony.

How did this all come about? Well, Freddie Mercury loved opera, and ‘Barcelona’ encapsulates his dream of singing with an opera star and full orchestral backing.

In 1986, he actually mentioned on Spanish television how much he would love to meet Caballé, a legend of the genre he had long admired. By the next year, they had met and when the city was chosen for the 1992 Summer Olympics, Caballé was tasked with producing a theme song for the games.

Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe in concert at the official launch of Spain’s Cultural Olympiad
Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe in concert at the official launch of Spain’s Cultural Olympiad. Picture: Alamy

She called on her new friend Fred, they recorded this song and fabulous connecting album, and the rest – as they say – is history.

Sadly, Mercury died in 1991, the year before his and Caballé’s iconic contribution to the global sporting event was borne out live – but the song was heard during Barcelona 1992 opening ceremony regardless, in honour of the rock legend.

What an incredible way to remember one of the finest tenors in history.