Russell Watson endeared himself to the British public by emerging from a northern working class background singing in downbeat clubs to break into the rarefied opera environment. He left school without any qualifications and worked as a bolt-cutter in Manchester by day, while singing pop covers at night. One night, when Pavarotti's version was in the charts after becoming a soccer anthem, Watson was asked to sing Puccini's Nessun Dorma at a club. That night changed his life. He subsequently sang at various sporting events, including the 1999 Rugby League Cup Final at Wembley Stadium and duetted with Montserrat Caballé singing Barcelona at the UEFA Champions League soccer final between Manchester United and Bayern Munich. Watson released his debut album The Voice in 2001, mixing operatic arias with pop covers, it topped the classical charts both in the US and UK and he also recorded a bizarre version of Barcelona with Shaun Ryder of Happy Mondays. The specialist opera fraternity decried him but the general public loved him, dubbing him "the people's tenor". In 2006 he underwent major surgery to remove a large brain tumour while recording his album That's Life and had a further emergency operation in 2007 to remove a second tumour but recovered well to continue his career as a populist classical crossover artist, releasing a new album La Voce in 2010.