At 71, the great British bass Sir John Tomlinson is headed to Australia for the very first time. In the first part of a two part interview he talks to LimelightEditor at Large Clive Paget about the advantages of being Lancastrian (and proud of it), the problems facing most young basses, taking on Wagner, and the importance of Reginald Goodall’s secret room next to the Royal Opera House lavatories.

You’ve always been a proud Lancastrian. How important was that Northern English background at that time for you becoming a singer?

Incredibly important. It was almost 100 percent of why I’m a singer. I was born in 1946 and I was brought up into that pre-television era, in the fifties when there was an awful lot of music being made. Strictly amateur music making. I’ve got a picture downstairs of me with my uncle John conducting the Accrington Male Voice Choir. My aunty Lizzy played the organ and taught me piano. My aunty Ivy gave me singing lessons and was a wonderful soprano herself. I was the youngest of five children. My brother was playing Bach and another brother was playing Debussy on the piano. They were all singers – soprano,...

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