Barcelona 1992 opera singer Montserrat Caballe has died aged 85

Her duet with Freddie Mercury became synonymous with the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games.

Opera singer Montserrat Caballe, known to millions for her Olympic anthem 'Barcelona' with Freddie Mercury, has died at the age of 85.

In a career spanning 50 years, Caballe sprung to fame for her stunning portrayal of Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia at New York's Carnegie Hall in 1965 which earned her a 25-minute standing ovation.

But it was the duet with Queen frontman Mercury, first released in 1987, which brought her recognition beyond the opera world.

Mercury died a year before the 1992 Games and Caballe, distraught at the loss of her friend, refused to perform the song with anyone else.

As a result, 'Barcelona' did not feature in the Opening Ceremony. But it was used in a video montage before the big event.

'La diva de la opera'

Caballe was born in Barcelona and, after excelling at music college, moved to Basel in Switzerland to further her career.

Following spells in Germany and Mexico, she was discovered internationally after taking the role of Lucrezia Borgia as a replacement at just over two weeks' notice.

During the lengthy applause afterwards, several record company agents dashed to her dressing room to sign her up with RCA winning the race.

That performance vaulted her onto the wish list of all the top operatic venues around the world.

Known for her versatility and the purity of her voice, she is considered one of the greatest sopranos in the era of recorded music.

Caballe performed at the Barcelona 1992 Opening Ceremony alongside stars tenors Placido Domingo and José Carreras.

Montserrat Caballe performing at Barcelona 1992

Montserrat Caballe performing at Barcelona 1992

An unlikely collaboration

One of her admirers was Mercury, a rock star with operatic tendencies, who met Caballe in Barcelona in 1986.

When the city was awarded the Games later that year, Caballe was asked to help produce a song to mark the occasion and went to Mercury.

The pair sat down together in London's Covent Garden and Caballe recalled, "We worked on some ideas, he sat at the piano and we ended up improvising all through the night, but it was worth it."

The result was one of the most popular and recognisable Olympic songs of all time.

Tragically, they were unable to perform it at the 1992 Opening Ceremony due to Mercury's death from AIDS-related illnesses.

Caballe later became a UNESCO ambassador and set up her own foundation for underprivileged children in her native Barcelona.

In 1999, Caballe did perform her most famous song again - alongside a recording of Mercury's voice - at the UEFA Champions League final held in FC Barcelona's Camp Nou Stadium.

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