COMIC singer John Reed, who toured the world performing Gilbert & Sullivan operas, has died on his 94th birthday, his friend and colleague said today.

The stage star, who was born in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, spent 20 years as the principal comic baritone with the DOyly Carte Opera Company.

He entertained audiences in London, Australia, the US and Canada with his renditions of fast-rhythm patter lyrics.

The comic device is a key feature of Gilbert & Sullivans works, which include Trial by Jury, The Mikado and Pirates of Penzance.

After retiring from the stage, Reed moved to Halifax, West Yorkshire, where he directed the local Gilbert and Sullivan society, the West Yorkshire Savoyards.