Watson 'The Voice' sued by music firms

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The opera singer Russell Watson is being sued for thousands of pounds by two companies that claim to have discovered him.

Union Music and Arias allege Watson, 35, known as "The Voice", dumped them after they catapulted the Salford singer to international stardom. The companies claim to have bankrolled him when he was an unknown and were now entitled to that money back.

Watson's solicitor disputed the claim and denied he owed his success to Union Music and Arias. Joseph Shammah, of Shammah Nicholls solicitors, said both took advantage of the singer's inexperience to get him to sign an unfair contract when he was an unknown, singing in working men's clubs.

Since then his career has soared and he performed in front of royalty and the Pope. In 2000 his debut album, The Voice, became the fastest- selling classical record in British history and remained at the top of the classical charts for more than a year.

Harvey Stringfellow, of the Manchester law firm Wacks Caller, which is representing Union Music and Arias, said: "Union Music and Arias claim that they discovered Russell Watson as an unknown and that having spent the greater part of £100,000 developing his career ... they secured him a career breakthrough."

He said the two companies obtained a record deal, brought Watson to the "brink of success" and were then "dumped".