Russell Watson, the people's tenor, has brain tumour surgery

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The opera singer Russell Watson was in a critical condition yesterday after undergoing emergency surgery for an aggressive brain tumour. Watson, celebrated as "the people's tenor", had been taken to hospital in Cheadle, Cheshire, the previous afternoon after complaining of feeling ill.

The 40-year-old father of two had successful surgery for a benign tumour last year and had been recovering well, but began complaining of headaches while recording at a studio on Wednesday. A doctor was called and a neurologist advised him to go to hospital immediately.

Richard Thompson, Watson's manager, said he was taken to hospital after the tumour haemorrhaged, causing internal bleeding. Mr Thompson said the current recording of his album, which sees the versatile tenor returning to classical music, could have exacerbated his condition.

"The tumour has come back but more aggressively this time and has gone into different cavities and affected his vision. He was working on his first classical album for some time and he was hitting the big notes and it was while he was doing this that he had the haemorrhage," he said.

A source added: "He was not feeling well, and a doctor was called, and they rushed him in for an MRI scan. He was then rushed in for emergency surgery. The reason they did the scan is they thought they could see bleeding. That is not a good sign. They don't do emergency brain surgery, brain surgery has to be planned."

Watson, who has two young daughters, was admitted to The Alexandra Hospital in Cheadle.

The operation was due to take place early yesterday morning but Watson refused to go into the operating theatre until he had spoken to his children. He finally went in at 11am for the operation which was due to end at 3pm.

Watson, who was a factory worker before forging a highly successful singing career, has sold more than four million albums.

He was due to fly to Los Angeles next week to perform at a star-studded Bafta awards ceremony for British artists in America.

Watson's career has seen him rise from his early days of performing in pubs and clubs to singing for presidents, prime ministers and royalty across the world, and he is regarded as one of opera's first "pop stars".

Silent killers

What is a brain tumour?

Most develop from nerve cells and grow until they cause symptoms such as headaches and nausea, numbness, loss of co-ordination and speech problems. About 4,000 people are diagnosed with them each year.

What is the difference between a benign and malignant tumour?

Benign tumours are slow growing and less likely to come back if removed. Malignant tumours are faster growing, more likely to come back and more likely to spread. All benign tumours become malignant unless removed.

How are they treated?

By removing them surgically. With benign tumours it may be all that is needed. But malignant tumours must also be treated with chemo- or radiotherapy. Very large tumours cannot be removed.

How long can a brain tumour patient survive?

If the tumour is benign and is removed, the patient should have a normal lifespan. If it is malignant and severe, it may be just a few months.