As Warners release his new studio recording of Aida, we go behind the scenes with the British maestro.

You’re known as one of the world’s most passionate advocates of opera. Where did that passion come from? 

Well, my father was a singer. He was a voice teacher so I got to know singers and singing quite early on – I mean, from the inside. I learned about how difficult singing is and what it requires to really, really make it. Also I’ve always loved theatre and the idea of people singing at each other. I don’t know why – I mean, when you really think about it, it is quite a strange thing [laughs], but I love the story lines and I love how people communicate through music and words. I think that’s where my passion really comes from. It’s that theatrical aspect.

You started out as an accompanist in New York round about 1980. Did you imagine a conducting career at that point? 

Oh, not at all, really, not at all! I worked with my father playing for his students for about 12 years. His ambition was for me to become one of the world’s great accompanists. But when I...