What a way to kick off the return of live theatre with an opera gala from the esteemed, award-winning Opera North. A Night at the Opera is my first live show since 3rd November 2020, and it sure was worth the wait.
Opera North is an arguable companion to opera as the Royal Shakespeare Company is to Shakespeare: whilst they use classic texts, they often visualise them contemporarily; they breathe fresh air into old productions.
Whilst I’m not personally a huge opera fan, I like to see (and review) all different kinds of theatre, and I recognise opera as an incredible art form.
During my time as Theatre Editor of The Mancunion, I have diversified the content of the section, encouraging more reviews of opera and ballet, two types of theatre that young people often have little interest in seeing but often enjoy when they do give it a chance.
A Night at the Opera is described as “an evening of operatic highlights”. The Orchestra of Opera North was joined by guest soloists Elin Pritchard (soprano), Benson Wilson (baritone) and Nico Darmanin (tenor), under the baton of Paul Daniel (conductor).
We were welcomed into the auditorium by a beautiful instrumental piece of music played by the orchestra. When the lights went down, Daniel joined them for their next performance.
It was a beautiful introduction to the gala.
Daniel doubled as conductor and host of the evening, and what a great host he made. Opera can become quite heavy, so it was a good idea to break up the performances with a little speech, and Daniel’s delivery was brilliant. I especially liked that he gave us a little information about each opera and performance, which helped us understand the emotion behind the arias, which were all performed in foreign languages. It might have been a good idea to include an English aria, but I guess most famous operas are not traditionally performed in English, and to do so might be considered “low brow”.
The three guest soloists were all exceptional. Pritchard has the voice of an angel – and draped in a blue gown, she looked the part.
Whilst I generally prefer female singers, I was drawn more to the men of this gala, given their vibrant personalities. They brought character and humour to their performances. This is not to criticise Pritchard; they are simply different performers who sang different arias, and it was nice to have a mix.
The only criticism I have for the opera gala is a trivial one. The orchestra performed two songs from Carmen, both of which were divine but neither of which were my favourite Carmen song: ‘Los Toreadors’. I guess I’ll just have to see their full production of Carmen to be treated to that musical delight!