Jennifer Saunders says she felt out of her comfort zone singing opera for Comic Relief because her hearing is “gradually failing”.
The comedy star, 62, is singing opera live on this year’s telethon, with the help of Charlotte Church and the English National Opera (ENO).
She was persuaded to join after a producer friend told her it “would be fun” and Saunders “would not be expected to do anything beyond her comfort zone”.
But the comic told Radio Times magazine: “I immediately felt beyond my comfort zone.
“My mum is very deaf and my hearing is gradually failing as I get older.
“And when I hear the word ‘fun’, I can’t help but think ‘fun for whom?’.”
While she has done some singing before, “singing opera live on Comic Relief is a totally different thing. It’s about breathing,” she said.
“I think I’ve lost lung capacity over the last year. I’ve been largely slumped.
“I had to do a test for the ENO in which I was told to breathe out slowly to the count of 16. I got to eight!”
And she added: “Singing is supposed to be the worst thing for Covid. I know because I was in a play called Blithe Spirit at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London just before they closed the theatres last spring.
“Broadway had closed down two weeks previously, but we kept going. It felt mad watching all these crowds of people coming in and there I was, spitting at them every night.
“I could actually see my spittle in the lights. I kept thinking, ‘This cannot be right’. Each night I stood a little further back.”
The full interview is in Radio Times magazine, out now.