Just over a week ago I went to a lunchtime concert by the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North entitled Summertime. On Sunday I went to another called Opera In The City in Millennium Square which should really have been named Singin’ in The Rain.
The concert started at 5.30pm, about half an hour after the rain had begun and the first hour was played to the accompaniment of relentless tapping on various waterproof materials being worn by the audience for protection. It wasn’t just a light summer shower but a prolonged downpour.
There comes a time when you get so wet that it doesn’t matter anymore, and I hit this saturation point about five minutes before the show started, so I could chill out and enjoy the wonderful music.
The programme was a mixture of well known and not so well known pieces from operas, naturally, and the full orchestra, conducted by Martin André, was in attendance along with sopranos Elin Pritchard and Inna Husieva and tenor David Junghoon Kim. The evening was hosted by Mark Forrest of Scala Radio who introduced the pieces in a very humorous, but informative manner.
The first half consisted of works by Verdi, Mascagni, Puccini and Handel, giving everyone a chance to perform solo and the Orchestra of Opera North the opportunity to play some wonderful music. Don’t try to tell me that you don’t like the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana, everybody does. If you don’t believe me go to YouTube and remind yourself how beautiful it is.
Welsh soprano and Opera North regular Elin Pritchard was the first soloist with Tacea la notte…Di tale amor, from Verdi’s Il trovatore, which took my mind off the rain totally, it was wonderful. She returned to the stage a little later with Mascagni’s Son pochi fiori from L’amico Fritz.
She was followed by Korean tenor David Junghoon Kim who regaled us with Ella mi fu rapita from Rigoletto and later Recondita armonia from Tosca. His tenor voice was as strong and mellow as they come, an absolute delight.
The final soloist was Inna Husieva who got the most amazing reception fro audience and fellow artists alike. She is a Ukrainian soprano from Donetsk and was resplendent in an outfit bearing her country’s colours. She is currently a National Opera Young Artist, and deservedly so, as her voice is superb. She sang O worse than death indeed…Angels ever bright and fair from Theodora by Handel. It brought, what would have been the house, down.
After two pieces by Puccini miraculously the rain ceased, allowing for a visit to the ‘facilities’ without fear of coming back to a wet chair, my bum was the only dry part of my body. As you would expect, the rain returned for the start of the second half no normal service was resumed.
The second half was much more light-hearted and mischievous than the first, except for a heartfelt plea by Ms Husieva for us to continue to support Ukraine in its struggle, as if we wouldn’t! She then went on to sing a folk song from her country Oh, I know, I have a sin about a young girl living life to the full, and then some.
There was a duet by Elin Pritchard and David Junghoon Kim from L’elisir d’amore by Donizetti which was also strong on the humour as well as being cleverly acted and sung.
To add even more uplift to the proceedings, the feature of the second half was the violin solo by David Greed of Méditation from Thaïs by Massenet. Not only was this beautifully played but it marked the very last performance from Mr Greed after 44 years as leader of The Orchestra of Opera North. I must say that I have seen a few other final landmarks in his career recently, in fact I think that he has had more dates on his farewell tour than Elton John, but he deserves every one of them. Again the audience was on its feet in appreciation.
The Orchestra finished the concert with Polovtsian Dances (No. 17) by Borodin, again, everybody’s favourite mainly because of the musical Kismet, but, just to send everyone home on a high, Mr Kim came back on stage to perform the encore, Nessun Dorma, and if you don’t know that, where have you been?
The mood was so joyous in the second half that the rain ceased and, wait for it, the sun made an appearance. Amazing. Not only is Opera North a wonderful classical music company, it singlehandedly replenished the stock of the local reservoirs by causing the only two hours of rain in the whole month of July. I am sure that my fellow passengers on the bus home really appreciated my sitting steaming for the whole journey.
There was no physical programme which enables me to provided a link to the virtual one so that you can read the artists’ biographies should you so wish, and see the full list of works performed. https://d2c6kjafra7luc.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/ONItC-Classic-Summers-Evening-Freesheet-V6.pdf
For more information as to Opera North’s forthcoming events – most of which are indoors – please go to https://www.operanorth.co.uk/
All photographs by Stan Graham, using an underwater camera.