Barcelona (Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé song)

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Freddie Mecury and Montserrat Caballé - Barcelona.jpg
Single by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé
from the album Barcelona
B-side"Exercises in Free Love" (3:58)
Released26 October 1987
GenreClassical crossover
  • 4:28 (single version)
  • 5:39 (album version, 1988)
Freddie Mercury singles chronology
"The Great Pretender"
"The Golden Boy"

"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.

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.

In 2004, BBC Radio 2 listed Barcelona at number 41 in its Sold On Song Top 100.[1]


Mercury had been a long-time fan of opera, especially favouring Montserrat Caballé.[2] 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.[1] Caballé became enthusiastic about the project and instead of recording a single, she proposed to make an album, on which Mercury agreed.[3] 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).[4] 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.[5]

The song[edit]

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.[2] 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 forced tenor, which was common in his other recordings.[5]

The song has been described as a rare textbook example of a combination of pop and opera singing which accentuated their differences.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]


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.


Live performance[edit]

Festival "La Nit", Barcelona, 8 October 1988, Freddie Mercury's final concert.

The song was performed live for the first time in May 1987, at the Ibiza festival, held at the Ku nightclub (now Privilege Ibiza, the "world's largest nightclub").[9] 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".[10][11] This was the last live performance of Mercury who was already beginning to suffer from AIDS.[12] Mercury died in 1991, and 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.[13][14]

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.[15]


Chart (1988) Peak
Germany (Official German Charts)[16] 32
Ireland (IRMA)[17] 8
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[18] 37
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[19] 15
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[20] 8
Chart (1992) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[21] 42
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[22] 21
France (SNEP)[23] 6
Ireland (IRMA)[17] 2
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[18] 2
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[24] 2
Portugal Singles Chart[25] 9
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[19] 12
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[26] 8
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[20] 2
Chart (2018) Peak
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[27] 100
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[28] 63


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.[29]


  1. ^ a b BBC – Radio 2 – Sold on Song – Top 100
  2. ^ a b Queen Songs – The Book: Freddie Mercury. Retrieved on 2011-03-01.
  3. ^ Freestone, p. 105
  4. ^ Freestone, p. 107
  5. ^ a b Freestone, p. 108
  6. ^ John Shepherd (27 February 2003). Continuum encyclopedia of popular music of the world: VolumeII: Performance and production. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 455. ISBN 978-0-8264-6322-7. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
  7. ^ John Potter (2 November 2006). Vocal Authority: Singing Style and Ideology. Cambridge University Press. pp. 188–189. ISBN 978-0-521-02743-4. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
  8. ^ Freestone, p. 109
  9. ^ Freestone, p. 126
  10. ^ Freestone, p. 127
  11. ^ Freddie Mercury Biography. Retrieved on 2011-03-01.
  12. ^ Freddie Mercury: biography. Retrieved on 2011-03-01.
  13. ^ "Barcelona 92: inicio de la ceremonia". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-03-23.
  14. ^ "La ceremonia de inauguración". El Mundo Deportivo(newspaper library). 1992-07-20. Retrieved 2011-07-24.
  15. ^ Queen's Greatest Hits 3, BBC, 22 March 2005
  16. ^ " – Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballé – Barcelona". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  17. ^ a b "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caball". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  18. ^ a b " – Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballé – Barcelona" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  19. ^ a b " – Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballé – Barcelona". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  20. ^ a b "Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé: Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  21. ^ " – Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballé – Barcelona". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  22. ^ " – Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballé – Barcelona" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  23. ^ " – Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballé – Barcelona" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  24. ^ " – Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballé – Barcelona". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  25. ^ "Top 10 Portugal" (PDF). Music & Media. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  26. ^ " – Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballé – Barcelona". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  27. ^ " – Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballé – Barcelona" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  28. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  29. ^ BARCELONA as an a-side. Retrieved on 2011-03-01.


External links[edit]