The last performance Opera North gave before lockdown in March 2020 was at The Lowry so it seems somehow appropriate that they should come out of their enforced hibernation to perform an evening of popular opera classics at the same venue.
Also, this was the first time I have seen anything live since then and I have to say it was absolutely wonderful to see performers in the flesh, to feel their emotions and admire their talent. Online performances have got us through this terrible time but there is nothing like the real thing.
The cavernous auditorium of the Lyric theatre was, because of Covid restrictions, mostly empty. Even though the audience was small it was extremely appreciative of a wonderful night’s entertainment.
Paul Daniel, the conductor, was a charming and witty tour guide as we travelled between different arias and duets. The stops on the journey included Bizet, Puccini, Verdi and Mozart as we made a musical trip around the continent. After all this time in lockdown it was good to get away, if only metaphorically. The theme for the evening was love. Love held, love lost, love regained but most of all love for music and performance.
The first aria, Qui La Voce, from Bellini’s opera I Priritani was performed by the exquisite soprano Elin Pritchard. Her voice was smooth and beautiful with a liquid grace and charm. It was enchanting and magical.
The tenor, Nico Darmanin, was simply sublime. Whether he was conveying the love of Romeo for Juliet or performing the Au Fond du Temple Saint duet from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers his voice was both powerful and affecting.
The standout aria of the night came from Benson Wilson, baritone, who performed the aria Mein Sehnen Meinn Wähnen from Erich Korngold’s Die tote Stadt. This opera was written in the 1920s and portrays the sense of loss felt after the First World War. It seemed especially poignant after the trauma and turmoil of the past 15 months. There was a delicacy of emotion about his performance that was tender and touching. I am not familiar with this opera and that is one of the great things with gala nights like this one. You can enjoy the popular classics, but they can also lead you to new places and discoveries.
The orchestra were magnificent, and we were told that this was the biggest orchestra they had been able to put together this year. I particularly enjoyed the two excellent preludes from Bizet’s Carmen they played.
It was a wonderful night, and I must mention how professionally organised everything was by the staff of The Lowry. The temperature check was no trouble and I completely forgot I was wearing a mask as I lost myself in this evening of music and song. Obviously, it will be better when the theatres can be full and back to normal with no restrictions.
A wonderful journey led by Opera North, let us hope the next stop is freedom.
Reviewer: Scot Cunningham
Reviewed: 16th June 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★