Freddie Mercury, the rocker who loved ballet and opera

The legendary Queen singer died of AIDS in 1991. Thirty years later, his powerful voice and his compositions continue to be heard around the world. Back to the journey of Freddie Mercury, a more complex man than one might imagine.

On November 24, 1991, Freddie Mercury died at the age of 45 following pneumonia due to HIV. Thirty years after his death, the RTS offers to watch both “Bohemian Rhapsody”, a multi-award-winning biopic released in 2018 which tells the story of the musician camped by the excellent Rami Malek through the success of the group Queen, and “Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender”, a documentary made in 2012. A way to approach the two facets of an extraordinary artist who will have marked the history of rock.

Farrokh Bulsara was born on September 5, 1946 in Zanzibar (current Tanzania), then under British protectorate. His parents are Indian Parsis. He was 17 when he landed with his family in England. After playing in a few formations, the young man founded the group Queen with Brian May and Roger Taylor and took the name of Freddie Mercury. A year later, bassist John Deacon joined the band.

Legendary concerts

It was from the mid-1970s that the group experienced a success that grew in the 1980s, making Queen one of the greatest rock groups of all time.

“Bohemian Rhapsody”, “We Are The Champions”, “I Want to Break Free”, “We Will Rock You” or even “The Show Must Go On”, the group plays hits and fills stadiums around the world during memorable concerts. Whether in 1976 in Hyde Park when more than 150,000 people attended a free concert or ten years later during the “Magic Tour”, the last tour with Freddie Mercury which brought together more than a million spectators throughout the world and which culminates in two legendary concerts given at Wembley.

>> To watch, the trailer of “Bohemian Rhapsody”:

A stage beast

It must be said that the powerful voice and presence of the singer ignite the crowds. And if we add elaborate stagings and often exuberant costumes, we get the winning recipe for these oversized shows.

In 1985, Queen participated in Live Aid, a double charity concert broadcast in mondovision and which took place jointly at Wembley Stadium in London and Philadelphia in the United States. Proceeds are to be used to fight famine in Ethiopia. Despite the presence of some seventy renowned artists such as David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Elton John, The Who, it is Freddie Mercury’s performance that will remain in everyone’s memory.

For twenty minutes, in a staging for once very sober, the singer, accompanied by his musicians, galvanizes the public with the sole force of his voice and ends in apotheosis with “We Are The Champions”, transforming the stadium into a raz of tide of hands raised in perfect communion. A performance that allows to relaunch the group which comes out of a slump following the choice of Freddie Mercury to embark on a solo album.

>> To see, the interpretation of “We Are The Champions” during Live Aid 1985

A shy and reserved man

Until he learned of his illness, Freddie Mercury always lived a hundred miles an hour and often in excess, whether through sex or drugs. Undisputed leader of the group, he appears on stage with a masterful and uninhibited energy and assurance, sometimes perceived as arrogant.

Produced in 2021, the documentary “Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender” nevertheless reveals another facet of the character. Through archive images and interviews of the singer and his relatives, we discover a rather solitary, reserved and sometimes even shy man.

The director has chosen to focus not on Queen, but on the solo career of Freddie Mercury. We find him when he is working on “Mr. Bad Guy”. First solo album recorded in Munich and released in 1985, it did not meet with the expected success.

In duet with the singer Montserrat Caballé

We also learn about his passion for classical dance – in 1979, he performed with the Royal Ballet – and above all his adulation for opera, from which he drew inspiration for some of his songs – “Bohemian Rhapsody”, taken from the album “A Night At The Opera”, being the best known example.

At a time when he was trying to get out of rock music and was fascinated by the voice of the classical Spanish soprano singer Montserrat Caballé, Freddie Mercury composed an album at the end of the 1980s made up of duets with the singer, thus realizing one of his dreams. It is from this album that “Barcelona” came from, a title that they should have performed both during the opening ceremony of the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. This could not be done, the singer being died a few months earlier.

>> To see, the song “Barcelona” in duet with Montserrat Caballé

A very private life

Freddie Mercury has always remained enigmatic about his private life and refused most interviews that wanted to address this question. “If people want to know me, they just have to listen to my songs,” he repeated to his journalist friend David Wigg, interviewed in the documentary.

With benevolence and sobriety, the director nevertheless approaches in small touches the love life of the star – in particular his relationship with Jim Hutton, his last companion of whom we can hear an interview – and his fight against AIDS. In the early 1990s, this disease was still sometimes considered shameful and above all synonymous with a death sentence. Freddie Mercury only made this information public the day before his death, when more and more conjectures were put forward in the media about his state of health.

“I have deemed it correct to keep this information secret until this day in order to preserve the privacy of those around me,” he said in a press release. The next day, his death was announced in the media, shocking thousands of fans around the world.

Andréanne Quartier-la-Tente

“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Bryan Singer, to see on Play RTS until September 22, 2021.

“Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender” by Rhys Thomas, to see on Play RTS until September 18, 2021.

We want to give thanks to the author of this post for this remarkable material

Freddie Mercury, the rocker who loved ballet and opera

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