RUSSELL Watson heads to Wirral for what promises to be an intimate night of music and chat later this year.

The acclaimed tenor - who has played for the Queen and late Pope John Paul II - is at the Floral Pavilion Theatre in New Brighton with his An intimate evening with ... show as part of a national tour on March 27.

Looking forward to what is his first show at the seaside venue, Salford-born Russell told the Globe this afternoon: "I've been singing at huge venues like the Royal Albert Hall for 15 years and decided to do something different this time.

"I wanted to go to places I'd never done before, so we are going to about 70 smaller venues on this tour.

"I’ve done a couple of shows recently where I’ve thrown it open to the audience to ask questions and have really enjoyed that.

"I've always been, and like to think that I still am, an open book. There’s nothing that I won’t answer."

The former bolt-cutter set off on the road to classical music stardom after he was discovered singing Nessun Dorma in a working men's club and made his debut in 2001.

The 48-year-old never imagined one day becoming one of the world's most prominent tenors, selling more than seven million albums worldwide.

His first album, The Voice, held simultaneous number One slots in the UK and America. It spent a record breaking 52 weeks at number 1 in the UK.

He is officially the UK’s best selling classical artist ever and has won four Classical BRITS.

He has performed for some of the world's greatest figures including the Queen, late Pope John Paul II - who requested a private audience with Russell at The Vatican - and former US President Bill Clinton.

He has also worked with Pavarotti, Lionel Richie, Sir Cliff Richard and American rocker Meatloaf.

Looking back on his career, the entertainer, who lives in Wilmslow, reflected: "I've had highs and lows, there have been million selling albums and those that have not done so well. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunities I've been given.

"It's good to come from a working class background. I remember working 12-hour shifts in a factory. I’ve always kept my roots in the Northwest."

Recalling the time he performed in front of the Pope, he said: "It was probably my proudest moment and takes some beating. I remember walking out on the stage; the orchestra was big, there were 110 musicians on stage, a choir of 500 and red-dressed cardinals behind me. 

"I just remember looking around and thinking 'crickey, this time three years ago I was performing at a working men's club in Wigan'. It was surreal." 

In 2005, Watson began having headaches. An MRI scan revealed that he had pituitary adenoma, a benign but aggressive brain tumour, which was removed on the eve of his 40th birthday.

It came back a year later and had haemorrhaged in four places.

Russell was semi-conscious when was rushed to hospital and if it hadn’t been for a seven-hour operation he would have died.

On overcoming two life-threatening brain tumours, he said: "It sounds like a cliché, but surviving something cancer gives you a chance to re-assess your life, especially after I was told, after the second tumour, that I was lucky to be alive.

"In the seven years that followed, I was able to see my kids grow up and really experienced the joys of life."

Tickets for his show at the Floral Pavilion on March 27 are from or box office on 0151 666 0000.

Watch Russell perform Nessun Dorma with Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra in 2009 below.