I just don’t fit in with the opera world and I often think I never will.
I make no bones about it, compared to most opera singers, my roots are in the wrong class. My parents had nothing to do with music. They didn’t play instruments and they certainly didn’t sing in any choral society. All my friends were far more interested in sport and girls than in classical music. My dad was into boats, my mum a simple housewife. My early childhood was spent listening to pop and, like everyone my age, I was a big fan of the Beatles. I was sent to a school which had a terrible reputation for music but which was strong on sport. I sang treble in the choir but I asked to leave after two years for fear of being beaten up. By now I was listening to Pink Floyd and Yes and if asked what I was going to do when I left school, some sort of office job seemed to be expected answer.
You can imagine the horror and surprise when I announced to my parents that I wanted to sing professionally. I might as well have said I was going to join the circus, the idea was so alien to their experience and their expectations. But become a singer I did.
I think my parents sensed that I might feel out of place in the world of opera. After all, as I said, I was from the wrong class. The only opera singers they’d really ever heard of came from…yes… WORKING-CLASS backgrounds. There, I’ve said it. And they were usually Welsh to boot!
How would I ever fit in, given my solidly upper middle-class background?
My parents’ fears weren’t misplaced. Quickly I discovered that my somewhat posh West London vowels didn’t sit easily amongst the regional twangs of most of my workmates. I didn’t have a football team I supported. I didn’t know how a car engine worked. I had never been clubbing in the depths of winter wearing a t-shirt. I was born in West London for God’s sake! I’d never owned a whippet or a racing pigeon! What on earth was I going to talk about in coffee breaks?
My singing teachers at the RCM, Robert Tear and Edgar Evans, came from very humble backgrounds. Both grew up in council houses. Perhaps the Opera Studio would prove less challenging and more “my class”? But no, its director Michael Langdon spoke with such a thick midlands accent I could barely understand a word he said.
Every big name seemed to come from the lower classes. Gwyneth Jones, Janet Baker, Domingo, Pavarotti, Carreras, Elizabeth Harwood, Margaret Price, Geraint Evans… How would I ever make it?
After the Studio I did alright I suppose, but always I felt I was carrying the burden of my background. All around me there were singers having big careers and not one of them had been to public school like me. It just didn’t seem fair.
How could I ever become The People’s Tenor with my BBC accent, my erudition and my ability to read music?
Lesley Garrett took pity on me and asked if I’d like to be put forward for some Raymond Gubbay gigs. I said no. I knew I just wouldn’t fit in. “A Night At The Opera” and ” A Celebrity Night At The Opera – Featuring The Music Of Andrew Lloyd Webber” were not for me. I knew it in my bones.
And now they just won’t let me in.
Now I’ll never sing “You’ll never walk alone” or Take That’s “Love Ain’t Here Anymore” in Italian with full chorus and orchestra.
The elitist bastards.

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