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The band Queen and opera have a long and beautiful relationship, from their overtly theatrical costumes and dramatic live sets to their outlandish music videos. However, there is so much more than the visuals that link the two together. From the obvious, such as the name of their album A Night at the Opera that catapulted them to stardom to the operatic overtones of Bohemian Rhapsody which spent nine weeks at the top of the charts. Not just popular at the time, it was ranked as the fourth most chosen song on Desert Island Discs showing its timeless attraction. As Welsh National Opera explores the joy of Pride, we take a look at the lasting influence of Queen and their unforgettable frontman.
It was this unforgettable frontman, Freddie Mercury, who would become one of opera's biggest fans, meeting then becoming friends and artistic partners with Montserrat Caballé. He was first captivated watching her in London at the Royal Opera House when he invited her back to his house afterwards and they all sang around the piano. They went on to record Barcelona together and according to those in the room at the time Freddie was just about in tears, exclaiming ‘Look I have the best voice in the world singing my music.’ Classical music, especially opera, captivated him in his later years, Monserrat even spoke of plans of them doing a whole classical album together.
It wasn’t just Freddie who was influenced by opera though, the whole band embraced the costumes and the characters that made them so operatic on stage. Sue Lawley in her interview with Brian May on his Desert Island Discs said, ‘you really do create a whole orchestra and whole opera company with just the four of you.’ Especially when they recorded Bohemian Rhapsody which Brian May said was, ‘short for an opera, long for a pop song.’ Later in their careers they had an entire orchestra behind them like when they recorded Who Wants to Live Forever. The music video featured the National Philharmonic Orchestra with 40 choirboys and several hundreds of candles which wouldn’t look out of place onstage at WNO.
But don’t just take it from us, let Dave Doidge, our Chorus Master talk us through why Queen and WNO are a match made in heaven:
It’s no secret that many of Queen’s greatest hits are fashioned with operatic moments (Bohemian Rhapsody being one example), so when I was choosing a song for the forces of WNO to perform alongside Luke Evans, I wanted to do something that would best represent WNO, Luke, and uphold the message of diversity, inclusivity and bring lots of people together after a difficult year of separation and isolation. ‘Pride’ represents many things, the main value being ‘love’, and we want to share that with all of our nearest and dearest – and although Covid-19 may have taken away our opportunity to celebrate in mass, here at WNO we certainly won’t be denied the chance to spread the message of love far and wide! Stay safe, best wishes and Happy Pride 2020
With that in mind check out our new video celebrating Pride in our home city, opera and Freddie of course. In his last years he said to Peter Freestone, his personal assistant and long time friend, ‘You can do what you want with my music...but don't make me boring.’ We hope WNO have done him proud.