Our conversation occupied what should have been his break between acts; I was confronted by a Wagnerian savage dressed in tattered pelts and covered with battle scars and purple gashes, who all the same played with a pair of reading glasses as he talked. Watching him emote onstage and schmooze in the backstage corridors had made me weary, so I asked what kept him going. 'It is my responsibility. The public does not know if you are tired from travelling or not well. I had a little cold the other day, from the air-conditioning. I cannot let that stop me. I must live up to what people expect.'
That sense of obligation, rare in performers (especially among the flighty narcissists who sing opera), is the essence of his character and accounts for the esteem in which he is held. He always justifies the price of the ticket, because he sets out to earn his reputation all over again every time he sings.