Don’t you love the way one thing leads to another? I do. I can often be found standing in front of my bookshelves reading three things at once, trying to cross reference an anecdote.
Or a bit of work-related Googling will lead me up far more fascinating garden paths, and I’ll find myself in the bookshop armed with a list as long as my arm, or poring over photographs of abandoned buildings in the Caucasus. Or capybaras.
But I never, not for one instant, thought Freddie Mercury would be the cause of a cultural awakening. I’m distinctly not a Queen fan (despite, like every other member of my generation, being unwittingly word-perfect on Bohemian Rhapsody). I am, however, lazy, and partial to a glass or three of Champagne. Which is how I wound up sofa-bound during my Christmas break, watching the second half of a late-night BBC documentary about Mercury’s life and times.
And suddenly – Oh! My! Goodness! Through the television’s wonky speakers came a voice so stirring and so exquisite that I sat up straight and reached for a pen to write down the name Montserrat Caballe.
(I’m American, you see, and as I said, no fan, so I’d only ever heard Queen’s hits transmitted over the radio, and had no idea about the 1987 album Barcelona, which was apparently re-released in November.)
What’s all the more striking about this aural awakening is my life-long absolute and utter aversion to opera. The music’s lovely, I’ve always said, until they start all that wretched shrieking. But this, this was like honey poured into my ears. Such was my need for instant gratification that I went immediately to one of those loathsome non-taxpaying websites and ordered up EMI Classics’ The Very Best of Montserrat Caballe, and am stroking it with my non-typing hand, desperate to knock off work and rush home to put it into the CD player (yes, I’m old-school).
It seems impossible that a singer I’m not particularly fond of would be the instrument of change, guiding me toward an art form I’ve previously avoided, in all but the smallest doses. Life’s funny that way. But thank you Freddie Mercury, for showing me the light