Growing up loving opera

When you think of opera your mind conjures up visions of Pavarotti, tuxedos, gowns, beautiful theatres.

But what if we told you to add lorry driver into that mix?

Meet Julian, an opera-loving lorry driver from Birmingham. Yes you did read that right, an opera loving lorry driver!

So how does someone like Julian fall in love with opera? Well, his passion for opera came long before the job did.

Julian grew up listening to a huge array of music from pop to progressive rock but classical was by far his favourite. One of Julian’s earliest memories is seeing Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi on TV performing the dagger scene from Tosca.

His interest in opera deepened when Julian was asked to join his local opera group Tinkers Farm Opera in Birmingham. Suddenly he’d gone from just listening and singing along in his cab to singing and performing on stage to an audience.

Julian goes on the trip of a lifetime

There was one operatic experience Julian had never had: he’d never been to a Grand Opera House.

So he researched his trip and booked it with us.

Julian and his wife packed their bags with their very best clothes and headed off to the Teatro Real in Madrid, but would it live up to Julian’s expectations?

Watch the video to find out.

If you fancy following in Julian’s footsteps, check out Expedia’s 72-hour guide to Madrid

An Interview with Julian:


How did it feel to see yourself on TV?

Excited and amused at first, now quite used to it.

Do you get recognised after appearing on such a high profile ad?

Yes, both in the village and at work, so all over the Midlands really!

Do you expect to get any stick from any mates who didn’t realise you were into opera?

Not exactly stick. More amazement and quite a lot of interest.

Why do you think your story has captured people’s imagination?

Challenging stereotypes, probably.

Do you have any more music-related travel plans?

Yes, possibly to the Met in New York in September to see Don Giovanni (Placido Domingo conducting!) The tickets are very reasonable there too!

What got you into opera in the first place?

Not really sure. I always liked serious or ‘classical’ music even as a kid. I liked pop too, from the Beatles to the prog rock bands, and also folk bands like Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention, but my real interest was in Opera. I have very broad and eclectic taste and will listen to almost anything I find interesting. My interest deepened when I was invited to join Tinkers Farm Opera in Birmingham and began singing and taking singing lessons.

 Where are you dreaming of to go to watch another grand opera?

New York. The Met is a fabulous venue, so I’m told, and we both like New York.

You spend a lot of time on the road. What are the best 3 operas for a travel playlist?

Mmmm, maybe Carmen, The Mikado and La Boheme.

Best driving route for listening to opera?

Motorways at night when it’s quiet.

Earliest memory of opera and why he thinks it became such a passion of his?

Seeing Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi on TV doing the dagger scene from Tosca. Not entirely sure if this early memory is connected to my later interest, but Hey! Maybe!

Description of the moment the curtains opened, how that felt to you?

Amazed how big the stage was. Stage Lighting was breathtaking, production of a very high standard.

How does the experience of seeing opera live differ from listening to recordings?

In any live performance the audience is part of the proceedings. There is an interaction between them and the performers and a kind of synergy exists. If you can imagine a performance in front of an empty theatre, then you might see what I mean. Listening to recordings is good but not the same.

 Will you plan to go to another opera or has that one left a lasting impact?

The Teatro Real has certainly left a lasting impact, and we shall certainly be going to see more opera.

Do you have any tips for more unconventional places / ways to experience opera?

Open air performances can be very atmospheric (no pun intended). I have seen a performance at the Mynach theatre in Cornwall on a warm summer night with a full moon over the sea that was made breathtaking by the surroundings. I gather that occasions such as Glyndebourne and the Amphitheatre in Verona can be just as atmospheric, depending on the weather!

How would you encourage more people to discover opera?

Well, I suppose go and see one. I would say choose something not too long with a powerful storyline and well known tunes, something like Carmen perhaps. There are operas that may appeal to children, like Hansel and Gretel by Humperdinck (my favourite!) that could be a family outing. I’m sure everyone likes at least one opera tune; why not check out the opera it’s from?

What are the musical experiences you particularly enjoy in Birmingham?

Birmingham is blessed with a number of fine venues for opera, ballet and musical theatre such as the Hippodrome with the largest stage outside the West End, Symphony Hall, the Alexander theatre, the ICC etc. There is also a vibrant scene of small independent musical theatre and theatre groups that put on new works in intimate performing spaces around the city. 

What would be your soundtrack to Madrid be – your top 15 songs?

Soundtrack to Madrid? Well the stuff in the advert I suppose, One fine Day, Largo al Factotem, Nuit d’Amour, etc. My best or favourite numbers would be Sandman song and evening prayer from Hansel and Gretel, Soave si a’il Vento from Cosi fan Tutti, Bess you is My Woman Now from Porgy and Bess, La chi Darem la Mano from Don Giovanni, Toreador song and Habanera from Carmen, Presentation of the Rose from Rosenkavalier, Che Gelida Manina from La Boheme, Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific(not strictly opera, I know) A Little Priest from Sweeney Todd (again not opera)The song of Pirate Jenny from Threepenny Opera,….I’d better stop now….



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