Who inspired Queen

Freddie Mercury: On the trail of a musical free spirit

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Transmission date: 04.11.2019 | 8:00 p.m. | NDR culture

1 | 17 Freddie Mercury, legendary Queen's lead singer, was one of the greatest rock singers of all time. His artistic courage, his originality, his curiosity and openness towards other arts made him an exceptional figure that still shines through to this day. As one of the first rock musicians, he reached out to the classical music scene. His collaboration with the opera singer Montserrat Caballé is legendary to this day.

© dpa

2 | 17 Freddie Mercury first heard Montserrat Caballé in 1981 in Verdi's opera "Un ballo in maschera" in Covent Garden, London. For him she had the most beautiful voice in the world. When she wants to work with him, a dream comes true for longtime opera fan Mercury.

© dpa / Picture Alliance

3 | 17 The relationship between the two was characterized by great artistic appreciation. Mercury almost stood on the opera stage once. The millionaire rock star cannot be persuaded to audition for Rodolfo in "La Bohème" in New York.

© dpa / United_Archives / TopFoto

4 | 17 When Freddie Mercury met Montserrat Caballé at the Ritz Hotel in Barcelona in March 1987, he brought along the song "Exercises In Free Love", which he had recently composed with Mike Moran. Caballé is so excited about it that she sings it three weeks later at a recital in Covent Garden with Mike Moran on the piano. For the first and only time in her life she will write the lyrics for this song - in Spanish.

© dpa / Universal Pictorial Press Photo

5 | 17 This track will later be released as a duet under the title "Ensueño" on Queen's Barcelona album. This is a scan of Caballé's original sheet music, which she later gave to Mike Moran and to whom she now makes exclusively available to NDR Kultur. You can see her hand-entered breath marks and her handwriting with the Spanish texts.

© Michael Moran

6 | 17 Mike Moran, Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé in the Spanish Embassy in London. Mercury writes the songs for the Barcelona album with Mike Moran. Moran also plays the piano on the album and conducts the live performances. The three become close friends. Even after Mercury's death in 1991, Moran and Caballé keep in touch.

© Michael Moran

7 | 17 Freddie Mercury and Mike Moran in 1988 at Mountain Studios in Montreux while working on the "Barcelona" album. The two also celebrate some Christmas parties together. Freddie Mercury also records many songs with Queen at Mountain Studios. Today, a permanent Queen exhibition is being shown in the former recording studios.

© Michael Moran

8 | 17 Rock star and opera diva on stage together - the first major crossover project in music history: Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé during the filming of their music video for the song "Barcelona", which will be republished for the 1992 Summer Olympics. A performance at the Olympics did not take place because after Mercury's death in November 1991, no other duet partner came into question for the opera singer.

© dpa / Press Association

9 | 17 For Freddie Mercury, the fact that the "best voice in the world" sings his songs is an artistic highlight of his career. He is incredibly proud of this collaboration and it gives him strength in a very difficult phase of his life. In the spring of 1987, one month after meeting Montserrat Caballé for the first time, he learns that he will not have long to live because of an HIV infection. Mercury and Caballé - "Montsi" or "My Super Diva" as he lovingly calls them - kept in touch until shortly before his death. The last time they spoke on the phone was in September 1991.

© imago / United Archives International

10 | 17 Even after his death, the opera diva Mercury feels connected. Together with his parents Bomi and Jer Bulsara, Montserrat Caballé unveiled a three and a half meter high bronze statue of the Czech sculptor Irena Sedlecka in memory of the singer five years after Mercury's death in November 1991. In the last years of his life, Freddie Mercury spends a lot of time in his "Duck House" in Montreux. The last song he writes - "A Winter's Tale" - he composed there with a view of Lake Geneva.

© dpa / epa keystone

11 | 17 Freddie Mercury is also fascinated by ballet and not only inspires his stage appearances. In 1984 the Queen video for "I Want to Break Free" was released. A scene choreographed by ballet star Wayne Eagling is shown, which is based on the 1912 Nijinsky ballet "L'Après-midi d'un faune". Mercury gives the faun in it. Freddie Mercury counts many dancers from the Royal Ballet among his circle of friends.

© Queen / akg-images

12 | 17 The piano is always a fixed point in his musical thinking. He composes his songs on the piano. Mercury, who had his first band experience as a pianist, judged his pianistic abilities rather skeptically himself. Brian May, on the other hand, thinks a lot of the pianist Freddie Mercury. He is particularly impressed by his exactness, his touch technique and his feeling for speed. Mercury's piano part in the Queen hit "Bohemian Rhaposody" is of course also famous.

© dpa, photo: Hanne Jordan

13 | 17 With "Bohemian Rhapsody" from the album "A Night At the Opera", bassist John Deacon, guitarist Brian May, drummer Roger Taylor and singer and pianist Freddie Mercury had their first number one hit in 1975. This song now has more than a billion clicks on YouTube.

© EMI Music Germany

14 | 17 Authentic in every fiber and always with heart and soul: Freddie Mercury had an enormous stage presence. His duets with the audience are also legendary. This photo shows him performing with Queen on January 17, 1979 in Hamburg's Ernst-Merck-Halle. The hall - not far from today's exhibition halls - was demolished in 1986.

© dpa, photo: Werner Baum

15 | 17 Garden Lodge - Freddie Mercury's home in the London borough of Kensington - his pride and joy. The trained graphic designer had furnished it with great taste. Actor Dustin Hoffman even stopped by to get ideas for the design of his home. Mercury was also passionate about collecting art and objets d'art. Mercury has resided in Garden Lodge, where, by the way, an opera costume by Montserrat Caballé hung behind glass in the living area, since the mid-1980s.

© dpa / London Express

16 | 17 In the twenty band years with Queen, Freddie Mercury has been transformed again and again - also visually. From the boho look with long hair and colorful blouses to ballet outfits with ballerina shoes on their feet to legendary outfits with schnauzers and leather clothes. Mercury never fits in a drawer. Here he gives one of his rather rare interviews in an artist's dressing room.

© dpa / London Express

17 | 17 Freddie Mercury in 1974 - before the big breakthrough with Queen. "I'm not going to be a singer, I'm going to be a legend!" Said Freddie Mercury in the early 1970s. He should be right. The great popularity for the film "Bohemian Rhapsody" has recently shown this again.


Freddie Mercury: On the trail of a free spirit

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NDR culture | World of music | 04/11/2019 | 8:00 p.m.