Russell Watson on his love of Venice and the unusual question he was once asked by a fan

russell watson on his love of venice
Russell Watson on his love of VeniceDave J Hogan - Getty Images

“I’ve naturally always loved music,” legendary tenor Russell Watson declares during our phone interview one February morning.

Speaking about how he first got into the art, he talks fondly of growing up in a house where music was constantly playing. “My father was a big country and western fan, and my mother was into Cliff Richard, ABBA, and all the pop repertoires,” he reveals.


“I think my love of classical music predominantly came from my grandparents. My grandmother was a big classical music fan and listened to the likes of Mario Lanza and all the Chopin waltzes were a constant fixture in their house.”

The Lancashire-born singer recalls sitting under his classical pianist grandfather’s Steinway Grand piano when he was just a toddler and the vibrations that sent him to sleep, much to his grandparents’ amusement: “I think that's where my love of classical music was born from.”

From Her late Majesty The Queen to Pope John Paul II, Russell has performed in front of some of the world’s greatest icons. This spring, he is set to delight Good Housekeeping readers when he sings in an intimate concert during a once-in-a-lifetime cruise around the Venetian Lagoon.

While he describes singing for some of the greatest people of our time as a “fortunate” experience, the tenor’s life hasn’t been without its challenges.

russell watson
Russell Watson performing at the Manchester United ’99 Legends v FC Bayern Legends match in 2019Simon Stacpoole/Offside - Getty Images

Russell has battled two brain tumours and had a near-death experience with the second after it haemorrhaged one night. He was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery and, speaking of the terrifying experience with tenacity, says it completely changed his outlook on life.


Explaining that it “knocked the stuffing out” of him, Russell adds that he wasn't able to sing the repertoire he was used to singing. It took seven years before he could start singing the likes of Nessun Dorma again.

“I was actually told in the hospital that I wouldn’t be able to able to sing to the same level that I had been, but I have defied medical cynics and am now back to full strength and full vocal power. In fact, I think I'm singing better than ever now.”

Speaking about his love of Italy’s most romantic city, Russell says: “I love Venice. First of all, it's in Italy. And I love Italy. I love the culture, I love the people, I love the language. Of course I love the language - I sing in the language! But there's something extra special about Venice.”

Remembering his numerous trips to the beauty spot, he says: “I've never ceased to be impressed by the splendour and grandeur of the place. It really is quite superb and it's a thrill to be going there to work.”

During Good Housekeeping’s eight-day cruise holiday, readers will explore Venice’s most iconic sites, along with the islands of Burano and Murano, before the exclusive performance from Russell.

The classical singer, who has been compared to Pavarotti and Sinatra, will also answer questions from guests. On what they can expect from him, Russell says he’ll run an informal conversation and start by singing two or three classics before pausing for questions.

Speaking about previously conversations with fans at his concerts, Russell reveals the unusual question he was once asked by a guest: “When I opened up the floor to questions do you know the very first question I was asked? The first question was what shoe size are you?”

He continues: “The next question was, is that your real hair? And then the third question was how much money do you have? That is a true story.”

russell watson
Russell Watson with his wife Louise Harris at the NHS Heroes Awards in 2018Joe Maher - Getty Images

Watson admits that he now has more of a strategy and starts the conversation with a topic. Asked if he plans to extend his working trip to Venice and enjoy some downtime during the trip, Russell says he would love to but is currently juggling running a farm alongside his career.

“We have three dogs that need walking every few hours, one cat, one parrot, six alpacas, six chickens, one cockerel, nine horses and thirty odd sheep,” he adds. “My wife also runs a livery stable here on the farm, so it’s all systems go! So we shall see, I would love to fit in a break in Venice if I can.”

Visit our holiday website for all the details on how to book Good Housekeeping’s eight-day cruise around Venice with an exclusive performance from Russell Watson.


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